In April, I was invited to participate as a Xamarin University instructor at Xamarin’s annual Evolve 16 event in Orlando – the largest cross-platform mobile event in the World dedicated to the future of apps. I have been using Xamarin since 2011, and have attended this conference for years (they have the best food!), but this year’s event is the first since Xamarin’s acquisition by Microsoft and there was a new energy.
The industry has been waiting for this acquisition – it seemed inevitable – but what does it really mean for Microsoft and mobile application developers?
Microsoft has completed their end to end story for app development with the addition of Xamarin. Similar to the picture flow of ‘develop, test, build, deploy, monitor,’ this now equates to the following products ‘Xamarin, Xamarin Test Cloud, Visual Studio Team Services, Hockey App/Xamarin Insights’. Great tools that are now available for developers and enterprises to roll out mobile applications on any platform.
The Enterprise & Xamarin
The biggest and most exciting change is that a lot of enterprises that are Microsft shops can now adopt Xamarin because it is now a part of your Visual Studio licensing, whereas before you had to pay for it dramatically reducing the licensing costs. Xamarin.iOS, Xamarin.Android, Xamarin.Forms are open source under the MIT license which is the least restrictive license and is part of the .NET foundation, which is the open source consortium for .NET that includes C# and the Roslyn compiler.
Enterprises who have been struggling with ways to mobilize their data and processes as they need to leverage their legacy infrastructure, processes and workflows. Now if they are on the Microsoft stack (or really any stack) they can now easily adopt Xamarin to mobilize processes on any platform, quickly get something up and running to see if it’s a viable option.
A lot of enterprises still believe it’s hard to integrate existing systems with a mobile solution – I don’t think it’s hard. It takes time, but you can overcome a lot of challenges with the right software. With the Xamarin acquisition, Microsoft is truly a mobile first cloud first company. Their cloud is on Azure, and in terms of mobile they can now target not just Windows but embrace all platforms including iOS & Android. It’s truly a new Microsoft.
Xamarin Test Cloud
Seems there is lots of investment in Xamarin Test Cloud and the biggest thing that excited me was the Test Cloud Live. Basically the scenario here is you deployed an app, a bug pops up on a device you don’t have and the bug only happens on this on particular device.
If you develop for Android, this is a common occurrence and can happen for a number of reasons. With Test Cloud Live you can essentially debug right from Visual Studio on a device in Test Cloud. You can attach to it straight from Visual Studio and interact with a real physical device. One of the biggest challenges of mobile is having all the devices available to test on, this will definitely help solve that.
Test Recorder for Visual Studio is also announced (still preview) but you can use test recorder to essentially record a user working through an app, test recorder will generate some code and then you can use that code to automate tests in Test Cloud. Test Cloud is really exciting in my opinion!
The XAML World
A lot of investment is being placed on Xamarin Forms and XAML. The biggest thing I saw was a XAML previewer which will allow you to preview screens you are designing which is a welcome addition.
Now that Xamarin is part of Microsoft, I expect a lot more investment in XAML tooling and expect to see some sort of amalgamation with XAML, since Xamarin’s XAML is not exactly like Microsoft’s XAML. This is only speculation but think the XAML teams from MS and Xamarin will probably combine but we won’t see a “unified XAML” for sometime, probably 1year or more.
Xamarin University hosted over 700 people, including the 29 intermediate/advanced student in the class that I co-instructed with Glenn Wester. This was a great experience and excited to be part of the team to help deliver training to students.
Xamarin University offers a unique training experience with live classes and providing students access to instructors for 1 on 1 sessions. I’ve never been big on certifications, but this is done differently. Xamarin University will give devs a head start in the mobile development space and figure out how to find, debug, optimize mobile apps and offer tips and tricks on various topics. Definitely recommend XamU! (We have tips & tricks, too!)
Another exciting development is Xamarin workbooks, which are essentially tools to test code live without actually writing an app. Why this excites me is I’ve been teaching my kids how to code and mentoring students and various people interested in technology. I think Xamarin Worksbook will be a great teaching tool for technology development students. I look forward to experimenting with the workbooks to see how useful they will be for our client projects. You can check out the workbooks here.
I’ve been an Microsoft MVP for 13 years now and RedBit became a Xamarin Premier partner in 2013. We have been using Xamarin to build out our iOS, Android and Windows apps with an Azure backend for quite some time, helping clients to leverage backend systems and years of proven business processes, embrace the mobile wave. The changes at Xamarin and Microsoft can only improve our success.
Here is the keynote for Evolve 2016 and below with some highlight key parts in case you want to jump around.
00:00:00 – 00:04:00: Opening remarks by Xamarin CEO & Co-Founder, Nat Friedman
00:04:00 – 00:11:00: Trends in mobile development
00:11:00 – 00:14:00: Miguel de Icaza, CTO & Co-Founder of Xamarin announces open sourcing of Xamarin’s SDK’s
00:14:00 – 00:21:00: .NET and new Xamarin features
00:21:00 – 00:28:00: A tour of Xamarin Studio
00:28:00 – 00:30:00: New capabilities in Xamarin Forms
00:30:00 – 00:35:00: XAML (Xamarin And Microsoft Love) with Nina Vyedin, Product Manager, Engineering
00:35:00 – 00:48:00: Miguel showcases Xamarin Workbooks
00:48:00 – 00:56:00: Nish Anil and James Montemagno, Developer Evangelists & Engineers, build an app in 5 minutes and demo the new dark theme
00:56:00 – 00:59:00: Jessica Steiger, Customer Success Engineer talks testing in Visual Studio
00:59:00 – 01:11:00: Donovan Brown, DevOps Senior Program Manager closes the loop with distribution and monitoring
01:11:00 – Nat’s back with closing remarks “We’re thrilled about the possibilities that we have now integrated with Microsoft to give you a complete end-to-end developer platform. We hope you can see the potential.”