Microsoft Makes Xamarin Free in Visual Studio, Open-Sources SDK

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2016-03-31 Print this article Print
Microsoft open-sourcing Xamarin

According to Todd Anglin, chief evangelist for Progress Software, a Microsoft partner and owner of Telerik, which develops tools for the Microsoft developer ecosystem, the Xamarin move is a major milestone for .NET developers, as Xamarin has long been a popular solution for building mobile apps in the .NET community due to its use of C#. With Microsoft now directly involved, these C# developers can likely expect many of the "rough edges" on Xamarin’s solution to improve, and an even better experience in Visual Studio, he said.

However, more broadly, this does not change a lot on the mobile app dev landscape, Anglin maintains. "There are still a lot of developers that do not have a preference for C# or Visual Studio, so other solutions, like NativeScript from Telerik or React Native from Facebook, will continue to serve the even larger non-.NET developer ecosystems. Xamarin will, finally, join the ranks as a peer open source option among the leading choice for developers that want to build cross-platform, native mobile apps."

Yet, Anglin acknowledges this is a great move for .NET developers. "In many ways, this is a long overdue move by Microsoft. It was heavily expected that Microsoft would acquire Xamarin more than a year ago, so this final outcome was inevitable, and it ensures Xamarin technology won’t disappear anytime soon," he said.

Moreover, "Open-source is eating the world, right," Anglin added. "An open sourced Xamarin reduces the barriers to adoption for companies concerned about making big bets on 'proprietary,' closed source runtimes. After the recent experiences with Silverlight and Flash, where the platform vendors abandoned their proprietary technology, companies have been more gun shy about adopting 'closed' platforms. An open Xamarin alleviates some of that concern. Of course, open source can be in name only if the only contributors/maintainers come from one place. The challenge with a big project like Xamarin that has been closed for so long is now building a real, vibrant open source community around their mature technology stack. Microsoft has been building this muscle for a while, so that will help the transition, but it will take time for Xamarin to really transition to an effective open source model," Anglin maintains.

Or will it?

Rob Enderle, founder of the Enderle Group, said Microsoft's Xamarin play showcases that they are very serious about getting developers back which was initially their core demographic.

"The long term irony is that Steve Ballmer Microsoft's past CEO was famous for a talk he did screaming developers, developers, developers—emphasizing how important they were and then losing most of them when he became CEO," he said. "[Satya] Nadella [Microsoft's current CEO] clearly wants these developers back and is using Microsoft's new found capability to develop on all major platforms simultaneously as a major inducement towards making this happen. Historically developers were one of Microsoft's greatest strengths; these moves showcase the firm is working furiously make that so again."

Meanwhile, Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC, gives us another historical tidbit that indicates Microsoft is making a karmic shift.

"A couple of decades ago Microsoft disrupted the application development world as Visual Basic evolved to be a low-cost tool for the development  of run-time free Windows apps," Hilwa said. "Few remember this, but it turned the app dev software tooling world on its end—which was then expensive environments and compilers with hefty runtime licenses for developing big iron apps. Today, Microsoft is doing something similar to the cross-platform mobile development world by turning Xamarin into effectively a free product and putting the runtime in open source. For mobile developers, this is the most important announcement to come out of Microsoft Build."

Jack Gold, founder of J. Gold Associates, summed it up a bit differently. "Xamarin was Microsoft's way of accelerating cross platform support from Microsoft dev and run environments—e.g. Visual Studio, .NET," he said. "And open sourcing it means that even more people will be able to access it. The cost to Microsoft for not selling licenses is trivial compared to having more users develop and deploy on Microsoft platforms —back end especially since they will tie to Azure, Office, etc."


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel