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Microsoft’s Visual Studio Adds Support For Building Cross-Platform Hybrid Apps With Apache Cordova

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At its TechEd event in Houston today, Microsoft is launching the latest update to Visual Studio. There are no massive changes here compared to the release candidate the company announced at its Build developer conference last month, but the company did make one announcement that will surely take some by surprise: as part of its recent push to making cross-platform development with Visual Studio easier, Microsoft today launched a preview of its Visual Studio tooling for the open source Apache Cordova project.

downloadCordova — which also forms the basis for Adobe’s PhoneGap framework — is a platform for building hybrid mobile apps for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone and other operating systems using nothing but HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

As Brian Harry, Microsoft’s corporate vice president in the Developer Division, told me last week Visual Studio will be deeply integrated into the Cordova ecosystem. Developers will be able to run the Cordova device and Android emulators right from Visual Studio, for example, and use all of the plugins available in the Cordova ecosystem.

At the same time, this preview also gives Cordova access to all of the features available in Visual Studio already and allows them to easily write apps in TypeScript, for example. Because Cordova launches updates significantly more often than Microsoft updates Visual Studio, the service will get out-of-band updates to stay current with the latest releases.

2014-05-11_1121As Harry told me, Microsoft also plans to become active in the Cordova open source ecosystem and to contribute back to the project. Update: turns out, Microsoft has already pretty active in the Cordova project for the past few years through its Open Technologies subsidiary.

For Microsoft, this is the second major move to cross-platform development with Visual Studio. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a deep partnership with Xamarin that allows .NET developers to build cross-platform native apps using Visual Studio. Now, with the Cordova integration, Visual Studio users get the option to also build hybrid apps in their development environment.

Other new features in Visual Studio Update 2 the company already announced at Build include support for .NET Native Code compilation, TypeScript 1.0 and Universal Projects, which allow developers to create a single app for Windows Phone and Windows on the desktop (with support for Xbox applications coming at a later date).

In addition to these development environment updates, Microsoft is also announcing a significant update to Visual Studio Online, the cloud-based version of its Team Foundation Server application lifecycle management service. The most important update here is that Microsoft is adding the ability to integrate third-party tools with Visual Studio online. The company has lined up 18 launch partners for this, including ZapierZenDeskKato and UserVoice, but given that this is a very standard Rest API, others should be easily able to integrate their own services, too. 

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