What Is Xamarin & Why You Might Need It

To Talk About Xamarin, We Need to Talk About .NET

.NET is a developer platform that consists of various tools, programming languages, and libraries, which come together to build all sorts of applications. The primary language of .NET is C# and there are plenty of editors and other tools available for all the major platforms (Linux, Windows, macOS, and Docker).

.NET development services skyrocketed, as the demand outpaced everyone’s expectations for the platform. You’ll find .NET development teams available from most every onshore, nearshore, and offshore company.

Yet, in spite of all this popularity, the base tools might not be enough for some. That’s where Xamarin comes into play.

Xamarin Software Development

How Did Xamarin Come Into Being?

In 1999, Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman created a company focused on working with Icaza’s GNOME desktop project. Eventually, Icaza set out to create a .NET for Linux. By July 19. 2001, Icaza launched Mono, an open source project dedicated to creating .NET for Linux. By then the company had been named Ximian.

On August 4, 2003, Novell bought Ximian, but by 2011 Attachmate purchased Novell, who then announced numerous layoffs. At that point, Ximian and its projects were shelved.

Eventually, Novell granted a perpetual license to the newly-formed company, Xamarin, for Mono, MonoTouch, and Mono for Android. Soon after, Mono for Android became Xamarin. Android and MonoTouch became Xamarin.iOS. Xamarin’s goal was to create cross-platform implementations of the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) and the Common Language Specifications (also known as Microsoft .NET).

In the end, Xamarin is a company focused on the continued development of .NET for Linux, Android, and iOS.

Finally, on February 24, 2016, Microsoft purchased Xamarin for between $400 and $500 million USD. Microsoft released the Xamarin SDK under an open-source license (MIT), which was bundled with the Microsoft Visual Studio IDE. 

What Is Xamarin Now?

Xamarin is built on the .NET Framework. Because of this, you must use either Windows or macOS to work with the necessary tools to build apps for either Android or iOS. You can work with Xamarin on Linux, but only to build Android apps.

The Visual Studio Tools for Xamarin can be downloaded from the Microsoft download site. The installer will locate all missing components and prompt you to download and install everything you need. 

How Do You Use Xamarin?

Xamarin is built on the .NET Framework. Because of this, you must use either Windows or macOS to work with the necessary tools to build apps for either Android or iOS. You can work with Xamarin on Linux, but only to build Android apps.

The Visual Studio Tools for Xamarin can be downloaded from the Microsoft download site. The installer will locate all missing components and prompt you to download and install everything you need. 

Why Use Xamarin?

There are plenty of ways to build apps for Android, iOS, and Windows. For Android you can use Java, for iOS you can use Swift, and for Windows, you can use any number of languages.

The problem with using separate languages for each operating system is that you won’t be able to share code across the platforms. That’s inefficient. 

By working with Xamarin, you can start building Android, iOS, and Windows apps that share a single .NET codebase. That’s not only a smart development strategy, it’s efficient. Not only that, by using Xamarin your UIs will contain standard, native controls, so apps will look and behave exactly as the end-user expects. 

With Xamarin, you use the same language (C#), APIs, and data structures for over 75% of your application code, across both Android and iOS. And because Xamarin is available for both macOS and Windows, you can develop with world-class IDEs on your platform of choice.

Xamarin also uses native API access, so apps will have access to the full spectrum of functionality that is exposed by the platform, device, or service it connects with.

And since apps built with Xamarin are compiled for native performance and are able to leverage platform-specific hardware acceleration, end-users won’t be able to tell the difference between apps built with the platform’s native language or those built with Xamarin.

Where Can I Find the Xamarin Tools?

Other than the Visual Studio IDE with Xamarin built-in, you can find other tools in GitHub repos. Those tools are:

You can also find help (and join discussions) on the Xamarin GitHub forums

Why You Should Outsource Your Xamarin Projects

Ask yourself these two questions: 

  • Do you have a need to build a cross-platform application that shares a large .NET codebase?
  • Are your current developers capable of working in C#? 

If you answered “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second, chances are pretty good you need to turn to a third-party. And if you’re looking to hire the best possible talent, without breaking the bank, your best chance for success is either with a nearshore or offshore development team.

But if you’re unsure about that first question, you might want to consider this: the world has officially gone mobile. In fact, the most widely-used platform on the planet is Android (at 74.14%). Because of that, your company needs to seriously consider adding a mobile app to your offering. 

And with iOS currently at 25.26% market share, you can’t ignore the Apple mobile platform either, especially if your market is in the US, where iOS enjoys a 58.17% market share and Android holds a 41.65%. Those numbers clearly indicate that if your company intends on developing a mobile app, you need to do so for both platforms.


If your development team is unable to deliver apps for both operating systems, it’s time you added a team that can. Once you’re able to deploy mobile apps for both Android and iOS, your business will expand in ways you might never have considered.

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