What the heck is Xamarin?

Xamarin on the Rise

By mid-2014 Xamarin is starting to pick up some traction in the market. There are more Xamarin jobs (paying very well) then there are programmers to do the work. So I get a lot of questions from recruiters and students about “What the Heck is Xamarin”?

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So What the Heck Is Xamarin?

If you are a Microsoft shop C# is likely your language of choice. And Visual Studio your choice of IDE. Xamarin is two things:

  • a Visual Studio add-on so you can program Windows, Mac, Android or iOS apps* in C#.
  • a IDE for the Macintosh and Linux so you can Windows, Mac, Android or iOS apps in C#. (Visual Studio does not run on Mac or Linux)
  • an alternative to learning Objective-C and XCode on Mac or Eclipse and Java on Mac or Linux or Windows to program Android apps.

* even if you only use Visual Studio on Windows to build iOS Apps, you will need a Mac that will be used to compile your iOS code.

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So Why Choose Xamarin?

There are several compelling reasons

  • You are a Microsoft shop and a C# Zealot you have to build Android and/or Mac and/or iOS apps.
  • Learning Eclipse, Objective-C, Swift, XCode scares you to death. A Mac or Linux machine is not your cup of tea.
  • You did not like the price tag of my favorite tool  Rad Studio from Embarcadero Technologies  to do this although it’s C++ orientation (Delphi is available too, a language invented by the C# creator Anders Hejlsberg).
  • Because Microsoft told you too! (don’t laugh that has worked for them for decades with developers).

So these are all legit reasons, and they are why Xamarin’s star is rising.

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So Why Not Xamarin?

There are good reasons to not use Xamarin as well.

Rad Studio from Embarcadero Technologies may be more expensive (almost 5 x the cost fully loaded) but ITS MORE EXPENSIVE FOR A REASON.

  • XCode and SWIFT rock for iOS programming.
    • If you are a C# programmer get out of your comfort zone and try an Angel you don’t know, and don’t waste too much time griping its not the devil you know.
    • Even Objective C is nice compared to C++. So while it is a bit dated it is a nice superset of C and C++.
    • More frameworks and 3rd party libraries and open source libraries available than with Xamarin.
  • Eclipse and Java is multi-platform (and while it is worse than VStudio with the right add-ins it can be quite nice) and learning new stuff is always fun unless you are stubborn.
    • Its not THAT hard its just difference. Hard is macro-assembler or VI. Eclipse is easy.
    • More frameworks and 3rd party libraries and open source libraries available than with Xamarin.
  • You have Simpler Cloud and iOS and Android needs that can be met with
    • PhoneGap
    • Icenium

The above frameworks and code-generation tools do a LOT of the work for you and are built on HTML 5 and JavaScript instead of low-level code with all that implies good and bad.

 

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How do I learn it? What does it cost?

Well the good news is there are not many books, so you won’t go broke buying every Xamarin book. The bad news is since there are not many books you better be great at Googling and teaching yourself. As for the cost at the time of this writing the Xamarin IDE for Linux or Mac costs about $83/month (about $1,000 a year).

  • Renowned author Charles Petzold wrote a book that you can get a free preview edition of here @
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  • The Xamarin cookbook by Dimitris Tavlikos focusing on iOS is good @
    ios-Cookbook

If you have any favorite Xamarin books or learning resources, please share it in a comment so we can add it here.

My Xamarin predictions

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Xamarin is young and with 30+ years in the computer field and business/marketing prediction field I can safely give you a roadmap of Xamarin’s future:

  • Microsoft will buy it or clone/steal it.
  • If MS clones it, it will take the form of a Mac and Linux VStudio first with a FREE Xamarin add-in before they ditch it for a “built in house” replacement.
  • The cross platform Framework may catch up to Rad Studio from Embarcadero Technologies in a few years.
  • Basically the need for a MAC will go away because they will invent a Virtual Cloud Mac that transparently compiles it for you via WebService.

These predictions were made on November 2014 and will be updated as they occur, or something happens that proves they will never occur.

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