With its Fire TV platform, Amazon is making a major push for the living room. One of the advantages for developers is that Amazon is using Android as the basis for its living room set-top box and that it features a store where users can download Android apps. For the most part, that’s games right now. Still, there are only around 250 apps or so in the store at the moment, but if it’s up to cross-platform development service Xamarin, that number will soon grow.
The company today announced support for the Fire TV platform and as Xamarin CEO Nat Friedman told me, this is part of the company’s overall commitment to post-PC and mobile platforms. Among its competitors, Xamarin is also the first service to offer Fire TV support as far as I can see and it’s the first time Xamarin offers support for a set-top box. Xamarin developers can now find the necessary files to start working on Fire TV apps in the Xamarin Component Store.
Friedman believes that given the fact that Amazon ships a game controller with the box, the majority of projects will be games. For existing Xamarin-based applications, porting games over to Fire TV should be pretty easy, especially for games that use the MonoGame library, which implements Microsoft’s XNA framework. Many of these developers use XNA to write games for Xbox 360, Windows and mobile platforms.
Because Android was designed to support multiple form factors, most developers also won’t have to do much to support Fire TV either.
Xamarin’s approach has always been to allow developers to write native apps that use the native user interface and provide developers access to native APIs. The same is true on the Fire TV, where developer get access to Amazon’s API for working with the game controller, for example. Converting an existing application to Fire TV then should be very straightforward according to Friedman.
Looking ahead, it’s clear that Xamarin believes supporting as many platforms as possible is the right strategy for the company. It also offers support for the likes of Google Glass, Android Wear and it even allows developers to use iBeacons on Android through integrations with Estimote and others.
Friedman argues that this also gives developers the option to fail over to other platforms. With so many competing platforms on the market today, you never know which one will tank and which one will suddenly become massively popular. By betting on cross-platform native development, small development shops will be far more flexible in reacting to the market.
As for living room apps, Friedman admitted that we haven’t seen many successful apps in this category. With more platforms getting to market, though, we may just see more interesting applications, too, especially outside of gaming.