At //build 2016 conference, Microsoft announced to include Xamarin into their existing offers and make the cross-platform solution free for everyone. Now as Xamarin is part of Visual Studio 2015, some things are changing for developers so let’s take a look at what how the Xamarin ecosystem will transform.
TL;DR: Yes, Xamarin is free. Or at least free of charge for everyone who is elightable for the for the free Visual Studio Community edition or a subscriber of one of the Visual Studio MSDN plans.
On Windows, Visual Studio is your choice now so that Xamarin Studio will disappear here but will still be the IDE to work with when using a Mac. Here you will also have access to a free Community edition and a paid Business one, that comes with a Visual Studio subscription and offers additional business features like the superior Visual Studio versions on Windows do. Detailed feature comparision here
Oh, and did it mention that Xamarin is open source now?
First of all: Yes, it’s true! Xamarin is available free of charge now for almost everyone due to it is not only included into the charged versions of Visual Studio but also into the free Community Edition. The latter has some limitations regarding the commercial usage but might be the right choice for independent developers and small teams.
Of course there are some benefits for paid users that are subscribing the Visual Studio Professional or Enterprise plans. Those have access to the technical support, might get special account for Xamarin University or get access to some special features like the Profiler or Test Recorder IDE add-ins. But the core of Xamarin development is fully included and not restricted in the free subscription. So if you don’t need premium features – no costs for you! Head over to the regarding Xamarin page if you need more detailed information.
What about Xamarin Studio?
Yes, I know: Visual Studio everywhere. But what if you are working on a Mac? Bad news first: We won’t see a Mac Version of Visual Studio in the near future. Xamarin Studio is still the way to go, when developing cross-plattform applications in C# on an Apple machine.
Xamarin Studio will retire on Windows due to there is no need for it anymore. You can and should use the free Visual Studio Community edition here. Xamarin Studio will be continued on the Mac only and will be split into two versions: The Community edition will have the same license terms as its Visual Studio brother on Windows and will be the right choice for indie developers, students and small teams. The Xamarin Studio Business edition will have all the features of the Community edition, plus some of the business features that the superior Visual Studio editions will offer. So if you have an existing Visual Studio Professional or Enterprise subscription, you will get Xamarin Studio automatically, if not, stay with the free version.
Additionally, Xamarin Studio is getting some new and advanced features like the ability to read and open UWP projects. Yep sorry, just read and open, no UWP compilation on a Mac at the moment. But hey, it’s a first step in the right direction!
How can I get Xamarin now?
When you start the Visual Studio installer right now, you can opt-in an installation of Xamarin as one of the features to be installed. Of course you can always add Xamarin to your Visual Studio installation later by re-running the installer or via a dedicated installer. On the Mac you can download Xamarin from the Dashboard on the website. When logging into Xamarin Studio the first time, it decides whether it becomes a Community or Business edition, depending on the Visual Studio subscription that is connected with your account.
Additionally they announced to give the Xamarin code the the community and contribute it to the .NET Foundation as an open source project that can be found on GitHub in the future. With these changes, .NET is now open source and native on every single device, from mobile to desktop to cloud. Of course also Xamarin.Forms is getting open sourced, too.
What about the other Xamarin products?
Over the years Xamarin created more than just a development framework. With several other products like Xamarin University, a high class learning platform or Xamarin Test Cloud, where developers can test their apps on thousands of physical devices they provided great tools for every mobile developer. Xamarin University will include new Microsoft focused lectures on the power of Azure and UWP as well as continuing to offer a first class learning environment for mobile developers. Xamarin Insights, a telemetry framework will join Microsoft’s HockeyApp. Test Cloud will be continued to provide it as a standalone product, where Microsoft will be investing heavily in its future. The official Xamarin Developer Certification will also continue to exist in the future.
I personally really like what’s happing with Xamarin at the moment. I love how Microsoft does not devour it completely but tries to keep the brand alive. Together with Microsoft, they can now offer Xamarin for free and who knows, maybe writing cross-platform applications using C# might be the most normal thing in the future.