Overcoming the abundance of chocolate eggs and Netflix marathons during the Easter holidays, we at the Front Page office were ecstatic to come back into the office and discover that the mobile cross-platform development software Xamarin will be available online for free. Announced during Microsoft’s Build Developers Conference 2016, Xamarin’s development tools will be open-source and be included within the existing Community version of Microsoft’s Visual Studio integrated development environment for “no extra charge”. It will also come standard on the Professional and Enterprise editions of Visual Studio too. Students, Professionals or even curious developers, if you are a Visual Studio veteran and you enjoy coding in C# then guess what? You can now use it to build mobile applications…for Android and even iOS!
Mobile app development rapidly evolves in today’s world and whether you are strictly Apple iOS or Google Android, one has to admit that being exclusive to a platform immediately alienates your product. Last year, the smartphone market share was sitting at 49.3% and 46.3% for Android and Iphone respectively; pretty even. Ideally, the best route is to have your application universal and cater to all users but it can be time-consuming and problematic to develop your app twice using two different programming languages. Cross mobile-platform development has always been the painless solution to this hurdle as developers can code their application using one language and compile it to function on multiple platforms. Time and focus can then be fully spent on the code’s logic as opposed to minor compatibility or feature issues. One project lifecycle. One design and development phase. Two end-products. Both development time and cost can be significantly cut and no longer is it solely required to develop a mobile app in Objective C for iOS and then repeat the same process using Java for Android.
Xamarin stands out from other cross-platform tools because it has incorporated the use of Microsoft’s .NET/C#. A framework and language that is already widely used today. Here at the Front Page office, Visual Studio and the C# language has been a staple with many of our web and digital projects past and present. The same language and tool that we’ve used to build numerous websites and pieces of software can now be utilised to develop mobile apps for Android and iOS smartphones! Xamarin opens up new possibilities that would enable us to develop iOS and/or Android applications using – not only – a renowned programming language like C# with its existing libraries and documentation but also a fully existing integrated development tool that we’re already familiar with.
But wait, open-source? Free?? Microsoft?! Quite a surprise we agree! Xamarin’s development tools and features will gradually flourish as experienced developers from all over the world can freely contribute to it. Prior to the acquisition in late February 2016, Xamarin was dependant on its own integrated development environment and required a subscription if you desired every feature and limitless functionality that it offered. Those days are now in the past and it’ll be fascinating to see how Xamarin will evolve from this point onwards.