Last week, Microsoft previewed its cloud based Visual Studio Mobile Center during its Connect 2016 conference. The software offers services for building and managing iOS and Android mobile apps. Microsoft described the software as a “mission control” for mobile applications written in Swift, Objective-C, Java, Xamarin and Reactive Native. Demonstrating the company’s commitment to openness and interoperability with other platforms, the Mobile Center was unveiled with the support for Apple technologies but not the Universal Windows Platform, which will be featured in future versions alongside Cordova support. Microsoft has said that the Mobile Center is a next-gen product based on current developer services including HockeyApp – which provides crash analytics and a beta distribution service – and Xamarin Test Cloud, used by developers to test app functionality across a number of devices.
With its foundation in the Xamarin Service, Mobile Center was introduced by Microsoft mobile executive Nat Friedman, a co-founder of Xamarin Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year. “Delivering excellent mobile experiences requires going beyond frameworks and IDEs—developers also need services to continuously build, test, distribute, and monitor their apps so that they can quickly iterate and improve,” Friedman said in a blog post. “Many teams cobble together a workflow using some of these services from different tools and products. But this is time-consuming and distracts you from your actual mission of delivering a great app.”
“This is why we built Mobile Center: a mission control for mobile apps that brings together all the cloud and life cycle services that help developers deliver high quality apps faster. You can build, test, distribute, and monitor your apps and easily add backend cloud services to scale your app to millions of users on demand.”
By using the Mobile Center, developers are able to automate the life-cycle of their applications, leveraging services for continuous integration, automated testing, distribution, crash reporting, analytics, and user feedback. Azure Services can be used to implement a back-end for mobile applications.
As an early preview, much of the promised functionality is not available at this stage. The preview is accessible through invitation only, and Microsoft has provided a sign up page in which developer are asked about what language and platform they are using, source code repository, and more. Along with Cordova and UWP support, future versions of Mobile Center will provide more cloud based services such as push notifications and advanced analytics.