Google is taking on one of Microsoft’s smartest acquisitions with a new tool for app developers

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesGoogle CEO Sundar Pichai
  • On, Tuesday, Google launched Flutter 1.0, a new open-source toolkit for developers to design mobile apps.
  • The idea is that app developers can write an app once, and deploy it on both Apple iOS and Android.
  • Flutter is similar conceptually to Microsoft’s Xamarin, a $US400 million acquisition in 2016 that helped Microsoft rope developers in to its Microsoft Azure cloud. Flutter could, perhaps, do the same for Google and Google Cloud.
  • Google is touting Flutter as having some unique features over the competition, such as stateful hot reload, which lets developers make changes to apps and see them reflected in real time, as well as third party integrations with companies like Square.

Developers now have a new weapon from Google in their virtual arsenal to more easily design apps for both Apple iOS and Android.

On Tuesday, Google announced it would launch Flutter 1.0, a new toolkit for app developers.

Developers can use Flutter to design the interface for apps that can run on both iPhone and Android, including graphics, animations, and sounds. Flutter has been in beta for 10 months, but now it’s being released to the public. However, even in its beta state, companies like CapitalOne have already used Flutter to build their apps for customers.

“Flutter enables you to build beautiful apps,” Tim Sneath, Group Product Manager for Flutter, wrote in a blog post released on Tuesday. “We want to enable designers to deliver their full creative vision without being forced to water it down due to limitations of the underlying framework.”

It’s also released as open source, which means that people can download and use the code however they want for free. So far, it includes contributions from hundreds of developers worldwide, who all volunteered their time and expertise to get Flutter to that version 1.0 milestone.

Flutter is similar, conceptually, to Microsoft’s Xamarin, a startup that allows programmers to develop apps for mobile and desktop and run it on any device or browser. Microsoft acquired Xamarin for $US400 million in 2016, and it’s helped the tech titan win developers over to its Azure cloud. With Flutter, Google could see similar dynamics, as developers building their apps on Flutter might be more inclined to choose Google Cloud to power their infrastructure.

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However, Google touts unique features of Flutter such as stateful hot reload, which allows developers to make changes to their apps and see those changes in real time, without having to completely restart the app.

Flutter can be used to build new apps from scratch, but also to improve existing apps.

With its “Add to App” feature, Flutter can help developers add features to their existing applications. Another feature, called “Platform Views,” allows Flutter-built apps to integrate with the operating system, such that it can show a user a Google Map, or control Apple Music. Both of these features are new in the 1.0 version, and Google promises improvements to both are in the works.

Outside the Googleplex

Google is also announcing other third-party integrations with Flutter, including an integration from mobile payment company Square that makes it easier to accept payments.

Within the company, Google Ads is already using Flutter to build its apps. Beyond Google’s walls, Flutter already has various customers including Alibaba, as well as the aforementioned Capital One.

“Flutter can allow Capital One to think of features not in an ‘iOS or Android-first’ fashion, but rather in a true mobile-first model,” Michael Jones, Senior Director of Engineering from the Capital One team, said in a statement. “We are excited to see Flutter 1.0 and continue to be impressed with the pace of advancement and the excitement in the engineering community.”

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