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Apple buys app development service Buddybuild



Apple continues to ramp up its efforts to court developers by making it easier to create and iterate their apps for its platforms. The iPhone giant has now acquired Buddybuild, a Vancouver-based app tools startup that describes itself as “mobile iteration platform” focused on continuous integration and debugging tools — essentially giving an app development team a simple workflow for iterating and pushing their apps out into the world through GitHub, BitBucket or GitLab.

Apple confirmed the acquisition directly to us, and the startup also noted the move in a blog post this afternoon.

No financial terms have been disclosed for the deal. Apple tells TechCrunch that the team (currently employing around 40 or so engineers) will stay put in BC, a fact that the startup celebrated by noting that it’s “always been proud to be a Canadian company.” 

As part of the acquisition, Buddybuild will be rolled into Xcode, Apple’s suite of development tools for iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS, although Apple and Buddybuild have not given a specific timeline of when that will happen. 

Buddybuild’s service will continue to be available to existing customers as a standalone product through the company’s site — though new customers will no longer be accepted through that portal, beginning today.

But the deal also means the effective end of the Android app development that the company added last February. That aspect of the service will be sunset in March. Apple similarly discontinued Android compatibility when it acquired TestFlight, effectively removing a key development tool from Google’s ecosystem. 

The system should fit nicely into Apple’s existing set of tools, bringing additional methods for testing, debugging and deploying mobile apps through a proprietary channel.

More to the point, it should make developing and iterating apps for iOS that much easier than before.

Apps are a key battleground for smartphone makers: they lure users to buy their devices, and when the pace of smartphone acquisition slows down as markets mature, apps increasingly become a revenue stream in their own right.

Apple, whose iPhones have long been outstripped by devices powered by Google’s Android in terms of market share, still generates considerably more revenue from apps than the latter. Of the $17 billion generated in Q3 from apps globally (excluding China), Apple accounted for around $11 billion of it, according to App Annie.

But with Google outstripping Apple in downloads, you can see some of the math that might lead Apple to making sure its platform and app tools remain developer-friendly and replete with new features and tools to make it easier to use.

The move echoes Apple’s acquisition of TestFlight back in 2014, which began to require users to employ Xcode to utilize the service.  

Buddybuild was founded in 2015 by former Amazon employees Dennis Pilarinos and Christopher Stott. In its nearly three years of existence, the startup has managed to raise around $8.8 million, including a $7.6 million Series A led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield back in May of 2016.

Stewart Butterfield has served as an advisor for the company, and Slack has become one of its more prominent clients. The remaining roster of existing customers is an impressive one, including Mozilla, Hootsuite, Reddit, SoundCloud, FourSquare and The New York Times.

Buddybuild added in its blog post that Vancouver has become something of a hotbed for software development, and adding Apple’s extra cache should make local recruitment even easier if the company does decide to grow.

Additional reporting by Ingrid Lunden



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