Apple iOS development extended to Visual Studio

With Xamarin version 2.0, Visual Studio developers can build C# apps to run on Apple devices

Developers using Microsoft's mainstay Visual Studio IDE on Windows will be able to build native Apple iOS mobile applications via version 2.0 of the Xamarin development platform, which is being announced Wednesday.

Leveraging the Mono .Net runtime, Xamarin, from the company of the same name, enables development of cross-platform mobile applications for Apple iOS, Google Android, and Microsoft Windows via C#. Developers can leverage Visual Studio using the Xamarin.iOS for Visual Studio feature within version 2.0, though having a Mac on the network for the purpose of software builds is required.

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Xamarin gets .Net developers on board with mobile development, says analyst Jeffrey Hammond, of Forrester Research. "The chief strength of the Xamarin approach is that it leverages a lightly tapped resource in the mobile space: .Net developers," Hammond says. "We see more C# and Java devs in enterprise IT than any other programming language. Xamarin gives at least one of these developer pools a way forward into the mobile-first age."

Hammond also sees Xamarin's cross-compilation approach as viable, noting music service Rdio's use of Xamarin. "The Rdio app is a good example. I doubt most customers who use it have any idea it's written in C#. That's really the barometer: If the customer doesn't notice and the experience is 'good enough' to meet expectations, then as far as I'm concerned, it's a lower-cost way to go cross-platform that is more maintainable in the long run."

Also part of version 2.0 is Xamarin Studio, which is the company's own IDE for native mobile development. The Xamarin Component Store, for adding third-party libraries to applications via a few lines of code, is featured as well. Developers can add native UI controls and design themes. In addition, Xamarin is offering Xamarin Starter Edition, a free tier intended to make it easier for developers and businesses to get running with Xamarin.

Xamarin previously enabled Android development within Visual Studio; the company took over development of Mono technologies from Novell in 2011.

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