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Xamarin Evolve 2016 - After conference

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Unless you have been living under a cyber rock as a developer you know that Microsoft recently purchased Xamarin, the company that makes a system for creating cross platform applications (Android, Windows, iOS) all in a single C# code source.

Then to do something really shocking, they made Xamarin free as part of Visual Studio. OH, and as if that weren't enough... Did you hear that Xamarin is now going open source?

After that, the interest in Xamarin TRIPLED that right, 3x, in a matter of weeks. To some degree I take statistics with a grain of salt. Just because three times as many people downloaded it, doesn't mean there is suddenly three times as many Xamarin developers out there. But it does show how many people may want to become developers in the mobile space, especially if they can do it with there existing set of Visual Studio tools and C#/XAML/MVVM skillset.

Evolve 2016 site
The keynote and several other videos are going up on the site now that the event is over. Go watch them.

Official Xamarin blog

On the the conference report...

Sunday - Sign and get your swag bag. In this case it started with an actual bag: A quality laptop bag designed for the 15" MacBook and similar sized. This is a hint about how prevelent Macs have been in Xamarin. Here's why: You have to have a Macintosh as the build machine for your iOS project. It also can build your Android project. And its fairly easy to install VMWare Fusion or Parrallels on it to run Visual Studio. So it can be a great all-in-one for the solitary developer. Personally I go the other direction. I'd rather use a Windows PC, and just have a mini-mac running headless someplace on my network or a MacInCloud shared-service mac as the iOS build agent. For one reason I can get a PC with a lot more memory and two hard drives, capable of running 3 monitors, for a lot less money than a MacBookPro. I also find the Windows machine to be far more 'enterprise development environment'. But that's my choice and going either way still produces great applications. There was also plenty of other swag to acquire throughout the conference including the highly-coveted Xamarin Monkey.

Monday & Tuesday - Training.
There were two tracks. Fundamentals for those that were new to Xamarin. And Intermediate for those that had a good handle. I've been developing in C# years, and WPF for about 8 years, and I still found some of those Intermediate topics pretty deep. When you're getting to the decompiled IL of code, and the mechinisms underneath Garbage Collection - you know you are getting some serious training.

Wednesday & Thursday - "Sessions". This was lectures given by subject matter experts in their fields. The guys that MAKE the Xamarin plug-in for Visual Studio talking about how it actually works, what's new as of TODAY, what's coming down the pipe. The guys that make the bridge code to iOS and Android talking about to write better code that will improve performance by magnitudes of speed. The guys the wrote the book (literally such as Charles Petzold) giving lectures on being better XAML coders. FYI: Charles' book is now final release and at least 50% thicker than the 2nd pre-release. There were no objections to be recording the trainings with my GoPro so I can go over these topics again. That kind of surprised me considering the training was an additional $1200 on top of the convention ticket. I think that goes to show how much Microsoft and Xamarin want people to succeed in their Xamarin learning and projects.

The staff manning the conference were all top notch. Every person seemed genuinely enthused to be there, happy to help you, even at the end of the day. The food and beverage guys did an amazing job. The food was all flavorful, high quality, nicely presented. Honestly it reminded me of the food I've gotten on Celebrity Cruise lines cruises; it was that good. And doing it for 2500-3000 people at a time is not easy but they did it well.

There are going to be more write-ups about the convention, the free events such as Universal Studio's night, parties at bought-out restaurants and clubs etc. etc. ... Session lectures with Grant Imahara and Steve Wozniak, and they were all great too. There were plenty of people blogging in real time, and writing up extensive blow-by-blow reports. If you're into those things it should be an easy search.

But I cared more about the content from Xamarin and was not disappointed. Everyone that has been doing Xamarin for a while has been on the edge of their seat waiting to find out what this buy-out by Microsoft was going to mean. I can now say it means a LOT of all the RIGHT THINGS. Clearly Microsoft is throwing in big with integration of tools, providing vast amounts of resources to the Xamarin development team etc.

If you haven't read the news releases from Xamarin on what was announced at the show here are some of the highlights:

  • iOS simulator on your PC, not just the Mac.
  • Remote USB connectivity from Windows to Mac. You plug your iPad into your Windows dev machine. It gets routed to the Mac build agent on your Mac in a closet someplace as if it were directly connected.
Putting these two together means you don't have to keep two machines on your desk.

Real time XAML previewer. This means as you make changes to your XAML such as setting background color, you see the changes made in the previewer as you make them, keystroke-for-keystroke. This is not a drag-n-drop designer much to the dismay of some. Those that have developed in WPF for any length of time know you don't DnD your designs anyway and that is just for the kids in school starting out - so basically the grown-up designers were kinda happy to not see drag-n-drop being added because it keeps the kiddies out of the pool.

Lots of fixes to annoying little things in the XAML interpreter. The guys that make the XAML interpreter pointed out that all of the vast number of improvements and features that have come out in the last few weeks are directly related to the additional people and resources that have become available after the Microsoft purchase. They are also quick to say "If all of this has happened after just a few weeks, image how much more is coming in the next year."

I'm really glad that I made the move to WPF years ago. It made picking up Xamarin that much easier. I'm happier than ever to have made the transition into Xamarin. I'm really excited about my current cross-platform project and how all this is going to shape the future of development.

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