Xamarin expands Android, iPhone cross-platform development kit

The Mobile toolkit, which makes it easier for C# users to develop apps for Android and iOS at the same time, now features APIs for geolocation and contacts

On Thursday, Xamarin added an API (application programming interface) for contacts to its new cross-platform Mobile development kit, with which the company aims to make it easier for C# users to develop applications for Android and iOS at the same time.

Xamarin was started this year to save the Mono project, which provides open-source versions of Microsoft software development technologies for use on non-Windows platforms, after Attachmate decided to drop it after the merger with Novell, where Mono had its home previously.

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For smartphone and tablet development, the company offers MonoTouch, which allows C# developers to create native applications for Apple's iPad and iPhone, and Mono for Android, which does the same for Google's operating system.

MonoTouch is the more popular of the two, but there is also a big overlap between the two products, which is one of the reasons why the company decided to embark on the development of Xamarin Mobile, a first preview of which was released about two weeks ago and included a geolocation API.

The ability to reuse as much code as possible when developing applications for different smartphone operating systems is something that a lot of developers have in the back of their heads, according to Joseph Hill, chief operating officer at Xamarin.

The goal with Xamarin Mobile is not to offer cross-platform support for everything a developer can think of, but to find a subset of APIs where it makes the most sense.

"For instance, our first version was focused on maps. A lot of mobile apps do a little something with maps, and it usually it has nothing to do with if its on iPhone or Android. The app just needs some geolocation information," said Hill.

On Thursday, the company released a new preview, which adds a cross-platform Contact API that give developers access to the phone's address book.

Interaction with the camera is a likely candidate to come next, according to Hill. The company has put up a survey where developers can influence decisions about what comes next, he said

APIs for audio and video, accelerometers and notifications are also on the table.

One thing the company isn't going to add is the ability to build a user interface and use it across different operating systems.

"We think that is a horrible idea ... You don't navigate the same way through an Android app as you do through an iPhone app," said Hill.

When developing Xamarin Mobile, iOS and Android are the first priority, but the company is planning to add Windows Phone, as well. But it isn't making any official statements on when that will happen, according to Hill.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com.

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