Introduction – The road to Xamarin

My name Is Neil Pepper, I’m one of the two co-founders of elementfortynine Ltd and I’ve been a developer for over 20 years and a mobile apps developer for over 15 years. Yes, 15, way before iOS and Android, in the early days developing mobile apps for Windows CE, then onto Symbian S60/UIQ, Brew and some proprietary platforms for manufacturers all in C++.

In those days I was working for a company called ShoZu – it was the world’s first photo sharing service and was installed on about 2 million phones, pretty good for a time with no AppStores. As all these platforms shared a common language it was possible to write cross platform code, sharing much of the business logic, data layer etc, and then building the UI layer natively (sound familiar?). Then the revolution came and these platforms were swept away and I moved onto iOS using Objective-C. We ported the ShoZu UI to UIKIt/Objective-C, while reusing all the C++ cross platform bits,  ShoZu was one of the first apps into the AppStore (for a whole 10 mins after AppStore was launched we were at the top of the best sellers list!)

After ShoZu’s sad demise, I moved onto developing pure Objective-C iOS apps for about 5 years and submitted multiple apps to the AppStore, but I never felt 100% comfortable with Objective-C. I didn’t find it a particularly elegant language, it wasn’t shared with any other platforms other than Apple ones. I also really missed C++ but still wanted to develop mobile apps. I had dabbled with cross platform tools, most were appalling, but had used Corona to develop some games for children and liked its simplicity, it felt like how games were developed for the Spectrum or Commodore. Of course having never developed for these platforms in reality it was probably very different, but I liked the speed of development for 2 platforms but this was just a game, no native controls, it didn’t need to look like an iOS or Android app.

I was then (early 2013) asked by my client (a big UK retailer) to research cross platform solutions, I wrote a few PoC’s in a few of them to see what we could do, but none of them were much use, none of them felt like you were producing a native mobile app, there were always compromises and when you got stuck you got really stuck. It was during this research that I was introduced to Xamarin by Gareth Pym, a long time fellow developer (and subsequent co-founder of elementfortynine Ltd). I was very sceptical at first, having never been a fan of C# managed code, but after spending some time researching Xamarin and fewPoC’s later discovered it was a revolution, I could write shared business logic code and then just build the UI natively and in a single language and there is little or no compromise. WOW!

If you shop at Tesco using the Tesco Groceries app on your iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet, you are using a Xamarin app because of that journey.

Once my time at Tesco was over I decided I wanted to continue to develop using Xamarin and by that time Gareth Pym had also been working at Tesco for sometime too, so having known each other for a long time we decided in 2015 with the help of Xamarin to form our own mobile consultancy specialising in helping companies build Xamarin based cross platform mobile apps.

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