Thinking About Visual Studio for Mac

Posted on November 15, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, iOS, Mobile with 18 Comments

Thinking About Visual Studio for Mac

A lot of soul searching has accompanied the sweeping changes that Satya Nadella has implemented over the past few years at Microsoft. And so it is with this week’s news that the software giant is now bringing Visual Studio to the Mac.

Brad wrote about this blockbuster news over on Petri yesterday, noting that Visual Studio for Mac is based on Xamarin Studio, a mobile-oriented development environment, and not Visual Studio for Windows, Microsoft’s flagship software development environment. That’s an important distinction on a number of levels. And while it may help curb whatever resentment the “Windows first” crowd still feels, I think it’s also fair to state that the future of these tools is “mobile first, cloud first,” which has always been the aim of Xamarin Studio. And not the legacy environments that “real” Visual Studio can also target.

Too, Xamarin Studio already runs on macOS. So while the announcement about Visual Studio on Mac sounds like a big deal on the surface, this is really just a rebranded update to a product that already ran on the Mac.

But Visual Studio for Mac is indeed another step down Microsoft’s new direction. And for those of us harboring dreams of a resurgent Microsoft once again stretching its platform muscles and competing rather than cooperating with companies such as Apple and Google, this kind of thing is always a bit hard to take.

So I’ll work on the breathing exercises. And tell myself—and you—that this is all for the best. While internally I’m at odds with myself and these thoughts.

vs-mac

Looking at the cached version of Microsoft’s leaked announcement—Visual Studio for Mac will really be announced tomorrow, at Connect()–I see the following.

Visual Studio for Mac is an “evolution” of Xamarin Studio. This makes sense, since Xamarin already had a Mac version of its development environment.

The UX is “inspired” by Visual Studio for Windows.Visual Studio for Mac is “a counterpart of the Windows version of Visual Studio at its heart,” Microsoft says, and it has a familiar workspace with a tabbed source code editor, Solution and Toolbox views, and more. But it also looks like a “native citizen of macOS.”

The underpinnings are the same. Visual Studio for Mac uses the same Roslyn Compiler Platform and MSBuild project system and build engine we see on Windows. This means that, in compatible project types, you can switch between Windows and Mac, or share projects across the platforms.

Mobile first, cloud first. This somewhat over-hyped term is in fact accurate in this case as Visual Studio for Mac supports mobile apps (“native iOS, Android and Mac”) via Xamarin and server (i.e. cloud) development with .NET Core with Azure.

It’s focused on C#. While Visual Studio for Windows supports multiple languages out of the box and is extensible to support many others, Visual Studio for Mac focuses on God’s perfect language, C#. (OK, it also supports F# too.) In fact, Visual Studio for Mac is written entirely in C# itself.

What can I say about a world in which Microsoft seems to undercut the Windows value proposition at every step? We live in interesting times.

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