Last week a group of BlueMetal’s software architects and engineers attended Xamarin’s Evolve conference in Atlanta,  and we wanted to share their key takeaways from this exciting conference.

Stelios Avramidis  Stel Avramidis:

Xamarin Evolve was a lot of fun.  Besides all of the great updates from Xamarin I had a chance to experience great sessions from some leading experts in UX mobility and design.  I had a chance to meet and socialize with fellow Bluemetalers from other offices as well as with Matt Larson, our partner manager from Xamarin.

My takeaways are not much of a surprise given the following major announcements:

• The new cross-platform Xamarin Profiler to profile applications on Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android.  This is a huge improvement from their previous mono log profiler.  The new profiler looks and behaves more like Apple’s instruments profiling tool.  Although you could profile a Xamarin.IOS application using native tools such as Instruments it did not provide a consistent cross-platform unified experience for both Xamarin.IOS and Xamarin.Android.

• Another major announcement was the Xamarin Android Player.  This is a godsend for anyone who has done Android development.  The Android emulator provided by Google takes eons to bootstrap and load an application for a debug session.  The new player from Xamarin cuts that time significantly from minutes to seconds.  Anyone doing native Android development should feel jealous and should be sending complaint letters to Google to do the same with their native Android emulator.  Just proves that Xamarin is a great company building great tools and a smart company who knows that keeping developers productive and happy is integral to their success.

• Conversely, Sketches was announced.  Another great tool along the theme of keeping developer productivity and happiness high.  Sketches allows developers to improve on the typical write, build, test, and deploy workflow.  It allows developers to write code and instantly see the intermediate results without building and deploying their code.  This is not limited to just a watch-list output seen in a standard debug session, but what the UI may look like as well.  In sum, Sketches is a cross platform tool that allows developers to quickly prototype and iterate ideas when creating both Xamarin.IOS and Xamarin.Android applications.

• The other major announcement was related to improvements made to the Xamarin Test Cloud.  The Xamarin Test Cloud is an invaluable tool to any organization taking on a native cross platform project especially when it comes to testing Android devices.  Based on this article there are over 19,000 distinct Android devices in the world (http://9to5google.com/2014/08/21/there-are-almost-19000-distinct-android-running-devices-in-the-wild/).  The major takeaways was a new cross platform automated UI testing framework called Xamarin.UITest.  Also, test execution enhancements that allow for parallel execution of test scripts across devices in order to improve overall testing performance in the Test Cloud.  Before this feature submitting test scripts against the test cloud could create a queue of requests that ran one after another on the same device.   Finally, there was a new video playback capture of the application UI while its running though test scripts.

Some other notable announcements was Xamarin support for AWS mobile services, and support of XIB files for their Xamarin.IOS.  However, it was not disclosed when they are going to release the new designer features.  When they do roll out XIB file support developers will no longer need to use XCode’s Interface Builder to create views.

Travis Nielsen  Travis Nielsen:

I would say Xamarin is “evolving” to support the fuller spectrum of mobile development. We now have Sketches for quick prototyping, upgraded platform tools for building (resource monitor and Android virtual machine), a pretty sweet looking testing platform (Xamarin Test Cloud), and Xamarin Insights, a real time monitoring tool that gives you pretty rich user behavior reporting, error logging, and user notifications (“we fixed that bug you were complaining about”).

So Xamarin is becoming more involved in the project plan as you move from left to right…which is smart and necessary. Test Cloud in particular is a potentially killer feature. The company is committed to getting developers tools to make mobile as awesome as possible.

In general, the Xamarin team seems to be growing at a pretty amazing pace. They were very engaged with conference participants and they’re easy to talk to (and work with).

Roman Yugov  Roman Yugov:

XAML/MVVM XAML support was very basic in Xamarin Forms – it supported only object creation and initialization.  C# equivalent (using object Initializers) is equally concise and seems to be very popular. There is not yet a visual designer for XAML. In fact, Charles Petzold mentioned that the preview of his “Creating Mobile Apps with Xamarin.Forms” book did not contain any XAML code at all. Anyway it was still possible to create MVVM based application (and really cool ones as Charles presented in his “Xamarin.Forms is Cooler than You Think” session). Here is a game changer: Technical preview of the Xamarin Forms 1.3.0 release was announced on October 8. It has behaviors, triggers, styles, dynamic resources, styles based on dynamic resources. MVVM Light V5 with full Xamarin support was released by Laurent Bugnion on October 8. Xamarin Forms 1.3.0 with MVVM Light framework could be very attractive to WPF/SL/WinRT developers. It allows almost seamless transition into mobile development.

Custom renderers Another hot topic – may be the hottest, session room was packed. Custom renderer allows to implement platform-specific customization (look and behavior) of Xamarin Forms controls. This technique is especially important for custom control vendors. Major vendors already have native UI controls sets for Xamarin Forms.

Mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) There were two MBaaS providers which presented at the conference: KidoZen and AnyPresence (along with Microsoft and Amazon).

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BlueMetal was a proud sponsor of this conference.