Mobile Center – HockeyApp plus Xamarin services on steroids

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This post provides info and curated links to online resources that get you going with one of Microsoft’s latest mobile developer tools: Mobile Center. Microsoft likes to state Mobile Center as “Mission Control for your Mobile app”.

Microsoft is going strong on their proposition with Azure. It is focussed on increasing the usage of their Cloud-based platform named Microsoft Azure.

Azure

One advantage that follows Microsoft’s change of direction from selling licenses towards selling Azure bandwidth – including various services, API’s, SaaS, IaaS and MBaaS solutions – is that they can only reach their goals when more developers and companies choose for Azure as their development stack.

Mobile Center: Mission Control for your mobile app

What is the perhaps the best way to get developers to use your services, I hear you ask? It’s giving them great and cheap tools, libraries and API’s to get them going on your platform as easy as possible and by connecting the dots for them from idea to a working Azure solution.

Find out some of the latest resources to get up to speed with Microsoft Mobile Center right after the break.

Azure Proposition == Awesome Developer Tools

By providing web-, mobile-, and backend developers with awesome tools like Visual Studio Code, Visual Studio for Mac, open sourcing the dot Net framework and multi-platform initiatives like dot Net Core, Microsoft is adding value to a wide range of developers on the Unix, Mac, and Windows platforms. Today, it seems easier than ever to get a solution going for you. For example, check out this article about my first experience with the online Microsoft Power BI tools.

The origin of Mobile Center

Let’s start with outlining Mobile Center’s functionality and focus as a quick introduction/refresher on what Mobile Center is.
Xamarin was acquired by Microsoft in the first quarter of 2016. Xamarin had several related services going on that supported mobile developers:

Xamarin Test Cloud

  • Xamarin Test Cloud: the cloud-based test service that utilizes hundreds of actual devices to test your Xamarin applications
  • Xamarin Insights: a crash and report and metrics service that was used to give developers insights on the usage and bottlenecks of Xamarin apps

In the fourth quarter of 2014, Microsoft acquired HockeyApp. HockeyApp was a functional service that made it easy to distribute test versions of your mobile application to testers – both internal and external to your company. Together with a client application, HockeyApp made it easy to get your app out for early Android and iOS user feedback. It was a direct competitor of Testflight, which on its own was acquired by Apple in 2014.

HockeyApp

Microsoft started developing a single portal in 2016 and integrated the mentioned Xamarin services and the HockeyApp service to provide mobile developers a single-point-of-entry. And that is precise what Mobile Center is:

A portal that provides the most important services to monitor, track, update and distribute your mobile solutions.

What’s in the Mix?

Right now, there are already quite some services included into Mobile Center:

  • Building your apps automatically with every pull request using your favorite GIT repo’s
  • Testing apps on thousands of real-world devices
  • Distribute passing builds to beta testers
  • Monitor apps crashes and bugs
  • Connect to a mobile backend for automatic scaling and to add important cloud services like offline data sync, tabular data storage, and end-user authentication services
  • Learn about function and technical usage of your mobile app with mobile analytics

Some more specific things that are included in Mobile Center are stated on their website. Today, Mobile Center supports:

  • Mobile platforms
    • Objective-C, Swift, Java, Xamarin, React Native
  • Lifecycle features
    • Build, Test, Crash, Beta Distribution, Analytics
  • Cloud features
    • Authentication, Easy tables, Offline sync

A Swiss-army-knife with updates

When Microsoft they say they’re working hard on getting everybody on board, they mean it. They’ve included support for GitHub, Bitbucket and are working on integrating Visual Studio Team Services’ GIT repo too!

There is even a Command Line Interface (CLI) for Mobile Center that will get you going from your Terminal or Console windows and that enables DevOps activities to set up and execute your mobile projects in any way you want to.

mobile center roadmap

Don’t let the fact that Mobile Center is still in Beta spoil the fun: they’re getting better every day.

Microsoft doesn’t formally recommend using the service in production applications but there is no harm in using functions like Build, Crash, Analytics and Beta Distribution in your next project. You can always leave those out in the version that you’re about to ship to the AppStores.

And there is still more to come: Cordova support is on its way and so is Universal Windows Applications support. So it’s for sure, Mobile Center is here to stay!

If you have any questions, see any issues or just want to hook up with the team behind Mobile Center you can reach them easy. Just use the chat box icon in the lower right corner and interact with the team. They communicate very open and respond within a few hours most of the time.  In my opinion, it’s that kind of community interaction that makes a good product a great product.

Don’t let the fact that Mobile Center is still in Beta spoil the fun: they’re getting better every day.

Pricing

While in Beta, Mobile Center usage is free. Microsoft is currently working on a pricing model that will work for most people. You can email them if you have any ideas, concerns or thoughts on the pricing for Microsoft Mobile Center. Use that line of communication if you want to, they encourage it!

Resource Listing for Mobile Center

Now you the origin story of Mobile Center, and what it has to offer. As promised, below are some of the latest resources that will help you to get the most out of your Mobile Center experiences:

Let me know what your opinion and/or experiences are with Mobile Center in the comments below.

Did you come across a good resource that isn’t listed yet? Let me know and help me keep this list complete and actual!