Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Xamarin has caused some to wonder what this will mean for the world of app development. The good news is that this is a positive direction for the .NET platform as a whole.
First of all, the deal means less hopping from screen to screen or platform to platform. Why? Xamarin lets developers create applications using Visual Studio and C# and other Microsoft development tools and languages. The resulting apps can then be deployed to iOS, Android and Windows tablet and mobile devices.
This is made possible by a framework called Xamarin.Forms that is used to create cross platform mobile applications. Device-specific native code can be used where required, so functionality is not impaired. When you are developing applications in Visual Studio or C#, therefore, it becomes possible to develop once and deploy to a whole range of devices, as opposed to creating versions for each device.
Xamarin, then, is the ideal tool for designing and building cross-platform mobile apps. As it now falls under the Microsoft umbrella, new apps benefit from the cloud integration capabilities of Microsoft Azure. Testing and iteration can also be completed using Xamarin tools – Xamarin provides a cloud-based test facility that supports automated testing of apps on thousands of different devices types.
This is another big step towards the vision of any developer, any app, any platform. Visual Studio users can look forward to heightened productivity as they can build native Android, iOS and Windows apps in one place for the entire mobile development lifecycle. For example, you can now simulate and interact with iOS apps in Visual Studio, as well as being able to deploy and debug apps from Visual Studio to an iPad or iPhone plugged into a Windows PC or laptop.
What’s more, this integrated development environment is going open source. The Xamarin SDKs for Android, iOS, and Mac have been made part of the .NET Foundation. The open.xamarin.com site outlines the open source Xamarin components and how to get involved in the community. This will enable the Xamarin engineering team to continually upgrade the Xamarin SDKs.
Looking at the big picture, then, Microsoft’s .NET framework encompasses .NET Core 5 as a small footprint version that supports Windows, Linux and Mac. Now factor in Xamarin which integrates with both and the fact that they all function within the Visual Studio toolset. This means developers can develop and deploy web apps to Windows, Mac and Linux and to any mobile device, too, using the same code base.
Those of you out there with Visual Studio who do not have Xamarin needn’t worry about having to buy another tool. Xamarin is included in Visual Studio at no extra cost, as part of its move towards open source.
Ballard Chalmers clients can look forward to even faster development of .NET-related apps. Further, those apps can be ported to any mobile device with virtually no delay due to the need for additional programming. It can all be accomplished as part of the same development cycle.
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By Drew Robb, Contributor
Drew Robb is a freelance editor and writer, specialising in the Information Technology sector.