Developers Rejoice: Microsoft Bundles Xamarin Development Tools For Free In Visual Studio

Microsoft said Thursday that core technology from Xamarin, the mobile app development startup it acquired last month, is now available for free in the Visual Studio toolkit, a move aimed at attracting more Apple iOS and Android developers.

Xamarin's technology lets developers build native iOS, Android and Windows apps using Microsoft's C# programming language. The ability to use one set of code for multiple platforms has enabled Xamarin to attract some 1.3 million developers and 15,000 customers, including more than 20 percent of the Fortune 500.

Microsoft, which according to Bloomberg paid around $400 million to acquire Xamarin in a deal that closed earlier this month, is wasting no time in making the technology available to as many developers as possible.

Xamarin is available in the free Visual Studio Community Edition and Microsoft is also offering a Xamarin Studio Community Edition for Apple OS X, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Group, said in a keynote at the Build developer conference in San Francisco.

Guthrie said Microsoft is also open-sourcing Xamarin’s runtime, libraries and command line tools as part of the .NET Foundation, and will also make the Xamarin software development kit available under the MIT License.

Xamarin has thrived even though it's seen as being too expensive for smaller organizations. Xamarin's top-of-the-line offering costs $1,899 per developer per year, while its second-tier offering goes for $999 per developer annually. Xamarin also offers a basic "Indie" version for $25 per developer monthly.

Rocky Lhotka, chief technology officer of Magenic, a Minneapolis-based Microsoft app development partner, said he's thrilled to see MIcrosoft remove the cost barriers to using Xamarin's technology. "Making Xamarin available in Visual Studio for free means that Microsoft developers have a great way to get into iOS and Android development without having to learn new tools," he told CRN.

At the same time, Lhotka said, he expects Xamarin to attract more non-Microsoft developers that may be looking to build apps for Windows 10, which now has an installed base of more than 270 million.

Microsoft is also hoping that Xamarin will get more developers coding apps that connect to its Azure public cloud. Xamarin has partnerships with IBM,, SAP and Oracle, and those are apparently remaining intact.

Xamarin could be considered the linchpin in CEO Satya Nadella's strategy to get Microsoft software running on as many competing platforms as possible. In the past, Microsoft would have seen cross-platform development tools as a threat to Windows, but that mindset has disappeared since Nadella took over as CEO just over two years ago.

Xamarin's co-founders, CEO Nat Friedman and Chief Technology Officer Miguel de Icaza, founded Ximian in 1999 and worked together to build Mono, an open-source implementation of the Microsoft .Net development framework. They joined Novell in its acquisition of Ximian in 2003 and left to start Xamarin when Attachmate bought Novell in 2011.

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