The Connect(); special issue of MSDN Magazine is loaded with insight on some of the most important announcements and initiatives to come out of the Microsoft Connect(); conference in New York. One of the most intriguing launches at Connect(); is the new Visual Studio Mobile Center, which provides a one-stop tool for build, test, distribution and monitoring of cross-platform mobile apps for Android and iOS.
Thomas Dohmke, group program manager for Visual Studio Mobile Center and co-founder of HockeyApp, authored this month’s feature titled “Exploring Visual Studio Mobile Center.” He says Visual Studio Mobile Center pulls together the efforts of the combined teams from HockeyApp, Xamarin Insights, Xamarin Test Cloud, Azure Mobile Engagement, Azure App Service and CodePush. The partnership extends also to the Visual Studio Team Services group. The unique character of the Mobile Center project created some challenges from the start.
“Our team came from three acquisitions—Capptain, HockeyApp and Xamarin—four different Microsoft organizations, and is spread across various countries on four continents,” Dohmke says. “We are proud of our very diverse team and the time that we invested into the team’s culture and collaboration.”
Dohmke says the team had to rethink the entire user interface for Mobile Center, respecting the familiarity that existing tools had for developers, while seeking ways to best integrate functionality and workflows within the product.
“The Build feature is a great example. You can build your iOS app in Visual Studio Team Services, but you need to bring your own Mac, either in the cloud or on-premises, install a plethora of tools and agents, and then configure the build tasks in the Team Services UI,” Dohmke explains. “In contrast, in Mobile Center all you need to do is to connect your GitHub repository and toggle very few check boxes.”
The resulting product advances the state of the art in DevOps tooling. In addition to the refined Build functionality, Dohmke singles out the Tables feature, which enables apps to sync data with an Azure backend without committing a single line of code.
Work on Mobile Center, currently in preview form, continues. Over the next few months developers can expect to see Mobile Center advance to fill in feature gaps present in the preview software. And Dohmke says Windows support is expected to be added to Mobile Center by late spring 2017.