Xamarin SDK Open Sourced
Written by Mike James   
Thursday, 28 April 2016

The big news at Xamarin's Evolve developer conference is that its SDK is now open source and under the care of the .NET Foundation. Bigger news would have been a clearer view of where it's all going - but that assumes that Microsoft has worked it out. 


The fact that Xamarin is now part of Microsoft is mostly good and the fact that its development system is largely free to use and open source is also good, but it makes Microsoft's world much more confusing. The question that has to be asked "is this a short term condition?"

Xamarin's SDK for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and OSX is now open source under the MIT licence that applies to Mono. What this means is that all of the code needed to develop for these platforms apart from the IDEs needed either Xamarin Studio or Visual Studio.

Here we hit the first complication - two IDEs.

At the moment we have all the usual reassurances that things will go on as before. The two Studios will be developed and of course you're favourite isn't going to be dropped. In the future there probably is going to be some rationalization and you can guess which IDE is likely to be dropped. 

For the moment, however, Xamarin Studio has some improvements. While there is still no designer for Xamarin Forms there is now a preview within the IDE. The preview is supposed to be fast enough for you to modify the XAML code and see the result in real time. Clearly a designer is needed but will it be within Visual or Xamarin Studio or Blend - yes Microsoft hasn't ruled out extending Blend to Xamarin Forms.

Other new features include DataPages, a way to automatically display data from cloud data sources - which really means Azure data sources and the ability to embed custom iOS and Android controls in a form. The latter should be used sparing because it makes your code more platform specific. 

Visual Studio also got some Xamarin-oriented improvements:

"Today, at Xamarin Evolve 2016, we are pleased to announce further progress on the integration of Xamarin into Visual Studio. Visual Studio on Windows now provides an end to end developer experience for building iOS apps, so that you can stay in your favorite IDE and build for all platforms."

This of course highlights a slightly different viewpoint - that Visual Studio isn't available under anything but Windows. 

In addition you can now debug and test iOS apps in Visual Studio. Yes, there is an iOS Simulator.  

"Our iOS Simulator lets you simulate and interact with your iOS apps in Visual Studio — even supporting multi-touch interactions on Windows machines with capable touch screens. We also unveiled our iOS USB remoting, which makes it possible to deploy and debug apps from Visual Studio to an iPad or iPhone plugged into your Windows PC."

In addition you can opt to work more in the cloud with iOS and Android Team Services and test on physical devices that are part of Xamarin Test Cloud. 

All this is great - but you can't help wondering when Apple will take notice. As it is Apple's move to insisting on apps compiled to bitcode is going to cause a problem as Xamarin doesn't support bitcode - yet. It would be uncharacteristic is Apple let a third party development system so deep into its walled garden. 

However the biggest problem is that Xamarin introduces yet another ecosystem for .NET programmers. You can now use C# to write programs for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, but yet not Windows Desktop. It makes Windows Universal apps look a little silly as the Xamarin model would be easy to extend to all platforms. Indeed, with a little work, it can be used as such. It is really just a matter of Microsoft realizing that a great simplification is possible. As the Xamarin name is slowly assimilated into mainstream Microsoft you can expect lots of changes. At the moment there is an inner logic trying to get out.  


More Information

News from Xamarin Evolve: What’s next for Visual Studio and Xamarin

The future of mobile app development

Live from Evolve: Previews and Updates in Xamarin Studio, Xamarin for Visual Studio, and Workbooks

Related Articles

 Xamarin Now Free - Does This Change Everything Or Nothing? 

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Microsoft Buys Xamarin - About Time Too 

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Xamarin Test Cloud

Xamarin Designer for Android 

Microsoft And Xamarin Collaborate To Bring Native iOS and Android To Visual Studio

Is Microsoft Going To Revitalise .NET With Xamarin Acquisition?


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 28 April 2016 )