Microsoft and Xamarin, Google and Swift

Xamarin

A few months ago I was looking at mobile app development again and so had a look at Xamarin, a cross-platform app toolset built around .NET. It seemed interesting, but it was hugely expensive. Something like $600 per year per license. When Android Studio is free and XCode is either free or $99, it was cheaper to go native.

Microsoft Buys Xamarin

Now Microsoft has acquired Xamarin and it will be free to use. So now you can theoretically write C# code and have it build (with some additional platform-specific effort) Android and iOS (and Windows Phone, if anyone cares) apps cheaply.

Google needs a new first-class language… Swift?

With Oracle constantly trying to squeeze money out of Google for their use of Java on Android, Google very obviously needs a new first-class language for Android – one that can eventually replace Java completely. Reportedly they’re considering using Apple’s Swift. Although I’ve spent only a little time with Swift, it seems like an excellent language. Like F#, it’s a hybrid functional language with objects.

Write once… in C# or Swift?

Xamarin’s supposed advantage is that you can write in one language, C#, and compile to iOS or Android. What if Swift becomes the native language for both platforms? Someone will create libraries to cross-compile the UI elements. What need is there then for Xamarin? Swift is a more modern language. Though Xamarin theoretically supports all .NET languages and thus would support F#, we know F# is a second-class citizen. Xamarin would be solely for those .NET developers who are unable to move on to new languages. If Google does adopt Swift for Android, Xamarin will become the mobile equivalent of WebForms.