Thinking About Visual Studio for Mac

Posted on November 15, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Dev, iOS, Mobile with 17 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.


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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Comments (18)

18 responses to “Thinking About Visual Studio for Mac”

  1. 5592

    The reality is that if you are writing a cross-platform app you will have a Mac since Apple still requires it (even Xamarin needs it) for the full cross-platform build.

    That hardly is "undercutting Windows". It's the reality of the actual needs of writing cross-platform. Now any reasonable developer using the Xamarin tools WILL be using Visual Studio on a big, Windows dev box and will have a Mac of some kind available for final iOS building. To allow them to use tools on ALL the hardware needed is just good sense.

  2. 326

    I'm in the windows first crowd and i don't care about Visual Studio for Mac. Do i need to call a Dr. to get myself tested ?

  3. 4567

    It might undercut the Windows value proposition, but what about the overall Microsoft value proposition?   Get Microsoft's tools, services, and cloud services into as many people's hands as possible.  I think this actually is Microsoft flexing its platform muscle.  Don't give anybody any reason in the enterprise to switch.  Wanna use a Mac (or have to use one for iOS dev)?  You can keep right on trucking with Visual Studio, thank you for your MSDN subscription.

    I think worrying about Microsoft under cutting Windows with this, is worrying about a war that is no longer taking place.

  4. 129

    Is it "Visual Studio" or "Visual Studio for Mac"?

  5. 3309

    In reply to Siv:

    Linux version? Ha!  Xamarin has never supported Linux.  Xamarin was borne out of Mono and Monodevelop and the company was formed when they were kicked out of Novell when Novell was bought.

    Mono also started giving up on Linux when their poster-children programs (F-spot, Banshee, Tomboy, etc.) lost favor for non-.NET language programs like Shotwell, Rhythmbox and other.  That time also saw the rise of Vala language applications like Shortwell. 

    Vala is, from my understanding, based on the C# language but is compiled down to C.

    Currently Monodevelop offers packages for version 5.1 to 5.10 for Linux while Xamarin Studio is running 6.2.

    C# development for Linux is probably going to be the best with VS Core or the C#-like language Vala.



  6. 7112

    You can look at this in two different ways:

    1. MSFT has reached the "every division for itself" point due to the breakup of Windows. The tools division is trying to remain relevant/in business by supporting mobile development on other platforms because they can't make enough money from Windows platform.

    2. MSFT is trying to pull a "Netscape" on iOS and Android. Remember when Netscape was trying to break the Windows platform stranglehold on users by providing a new "platform" (the web)? Same goes with Java. In this scenario, MSFT lures enough ISVs to Xamarin so that it effectively becomes the mobile "platform". Of course, even if they're wildly successful at this plan, there's always the issue of making money from it.


  7. 1377

    Does MSFT have any plans to bring the Visual Basic Editor for Mac Office up to parity with the Visual Basic Editor for Windows Office?

  8. 473

    So when is the Linux version coming?

  9. 486

    I thought Xamarin could develop for Windows 10 mobile, too? Or is that not the case with the Mac version?

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