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Monday, April 4, 2016

Microsoft Delights Devs By Freeing Its Xamarin Coding Tools

When a tech giant acquires a company that makes software you like or depend on, it’s hard not be nervous. Will the new owners raise prices, ruin your favorite product, or even discontinue a tool you need?
Those were surely some of the questions on the minds of developers last month when Microsoft announced that it would acquire Xamarin, a company that makes tools that help coders build applications that can run on multiple systems, including those made by Microsoft’s rivals, namely Android and iOS.
But developers got a dose of good news today at the company’s Build conference: Microsoft isn’t raising prices. In fact, just the opposite: It’s making Xamarin’s platform free for all users of Microsoft’s popular Visual Studio coding tool, including those who use the free “community” edition of the product. The Mac version of Xamarin will be free as well, all of which is a far cry from the $999 Xamarin previously charged for its business edition.
Xamarin is also open sourcing some core parts of its platform, meaning that anyone will be able to modify and share code used to create those pieces. You could even take that code and build a competing product. Xamarin also offers an open source project for building across platforms called Mono, which it has just relicensed under more permissive rules.
This fits with Microsoft’s increased focus on open source software and cross-platform development in recent years. It open sourced its .NET development framework in 2014 and released a free version of Visual Studio that runs on Macs and Linux. And yesterday the company revealed new tools that allow developers to run Linux tools on Windows.
That said, Microsoft isn’t giving away all of Xamarin’s source code. “We’re releasing the Xamarin runtime and all the command line tools you need to build apps,” Xamarin co-founder Nat Friedman said in a comment on the Hacker News forum. But he added that some of Xamarin’s code editing tools will remain proprietary, though they’ll be free to use.
Of course, this could still turn out to be bad news in the long run. Facebook ran the cloud platform Parse for nearly three years before announcing that it would shut Parse’s services down. But for today at least, Xamarin users can be grateful that their favorite product’s new corporate overlord doesn’t appear to be mucking things up.

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