Xamarin Evolve 2016 wrap-up

By Mohit Singh and Joshua Fenemore

mobile innovation

The Xamarin Evolve 2016 conference is a wrap, and it was a full two days of inspiration, fun, learning and big announcements for the mobile-first world.

For a couple of years now we’ve been using Xamarin to streamline mobile development for our customers. The tool allows us to build a mobile app once, and then deploy it to multiple mobile platforms – to Android, iOS, Mac and Windows. That means we can deliver more quickly, and our customers save on development costs.

Previously we’ve blogged about why it’s important, and what the advantages and disadvantages of the platform are. Since then Microsoft has acquired the company and its products. As a result uptake of Xamarin has shot up – but we’ll go into the details of that later.

Here are 5 key takeaways from the conference:

  1. Xamarin is now Open Source

Xamarin CTO Miguel de Icaza announced that its platform has now been released to public as open source. That means anyone with an interest can pick it up and play around, and it will have a huge positive impact on innovation.

It also means that Xamarin is now closer than ever to realising a vision of running on any platform, and any device. You can find the source code via open.xamarin.com or directly on GitHub.

  1. Xamarin Forms – Now ready for prime time

Xamarin forms allows developers to create native user interfaces across multiple platforms. One of the benefits of Xamarin Forms has been code-sharing between iOS, Android and Windows. It uses a “write once, run everywhere” strategy.  However, while Xamarin Forms has always been considered an innovative product, it had many challenges which made it hard to adopt.

With the upcoming addition of the Xamarin Forms XAML previewer, a live designer, adding the ability to mix native and form views and the introduction of Data Pages, now means that it’s ready for prime time adoption, especially for Line of Business apps. In fact, this has been the biggest push in messaging at the Evolve Conference.

  1. A better story together – Microsoft and Xamarin

It’s clear that Microsoft’s acquisition of Xamarin is paying off. Xamarin CEO Nat Friedman shared stats post-acquisition that showed uptake had grown by 300% since the announcement was made in February.

The company is growing exponentially – the dream of any start-up. It opens the ecosystem for a whole lot more for organisations and developers, enabling a full enterprise grade mobile DevOps life cycle.

  • Development with Xamarin Studio 6 & visual studio.
  • Source control & Continous integration with TFS
  • Test automation with Xamarin Test Cloud
  • Deployment and analytics with Hockey app

Xamarin’s offer of support across the entire application development life cycle was a key theme throughout the conference.

  1. New tools for ideations & documentation

Every corporate is trying to be agile and to adopt the start-up style of working. New tools for developers were introduced at Evolve, making it easier than ever for developers to work closer with businesses. Xamarin WorkBook is a console style application where you can write code and have it immediately deploy to an emulator. This is a great new tool for experimentation and learning certain features on the fly.

  1. New testing tools

During the keynote presentation we were shown live remote debugging of an application to a device hosted in Test Cloud. Now those annoying bugs which only occur on obscure android devices will be easy to track down and fix.

We were also shown real time recording of user interactions in an application which were immediately converted to a Xamarin UI test, so there’s now no excuse for not having automated UI tests.

The rest

Another key theme of the conference was “build awesome apps”. Technical Program Manager Nina Vyedin lead a session named “If you build it: Making apps for humans” – a fascinating and incredibly thought provoking session. Vyedin presented footage from her video project where she interviewed several people from very different backgrounds asking them what smartphones, apps and developers mean to them. It was really interesting to hear everyone’s perspective and thoughts on what is important to them about mobile and reminder that “building awesome apps” comes from understanding your users and doing right by them.

We were also lucky to attend a session lead by Grant Imahara, an engineer from the Discovery channel TV show, Mythbusters. Grant talked about his experience in engineering and how solid engineering principles and good team work are relevant for every industry. In particular, the principle that “failure is a design tool”. The Mythbusters motto is “failure is always an option”.

Imahara also mentioned about the two head engineers on the show and how their personalities and engineering style were completely opposite. They worked so well together, he said, because they understood their differences and left their own egos at the door. They were always prepared to take on new ideas, listen to feedback and understood that their way was not the only way.

In summary, it was a real treat to attend the conference and every attendee walked away with some new technical knowledge, excitement for the future, and some personal growth. We can’t wait to bring some of our learnings into our work with customers.

If you’re interested in learning more about Xamarin, our Auckland office runs regular meetups – you can keep an eye out for the next one here.

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