Day 1: A great keynote, interesting sessions and Harry Potter
All my pictures of Xamarin Evolve can be seen on OneDrive!
After a long trip from Zurich via Chicago, I arrived at Orlando’s Hyatt Regency hotel late at night. After a good but short night’s rest, the day started with a short “trek” to the conference center in the same hotel. It’s a large hotel! On the plus side, it made it easy to reach my step goal every day. The breakfast was great, as was all the food at this high quality conference!
Finally, it was time to enter the keynote hall with a few fellow Xamarin MVPs. I also saw a few familiar faces in the crowd and went to greet some Xamarin friends. Their advice was to stay alert during the keynote because some exciting announcements were expected. I was ready!
The keynote started with Xamarin CEO (until acquisition) and now the Xamarin lead at Microsoft: Nat Friedman. Nat recapitulated some of the events that happened since the last Evolve conference in 2014 in Atlanta. This was quite a busy time for Xamarin, including the recent acquisition by Microsoft which was of course one of the major topics of the keynote. Thanks to this momentous event, Xamarin is now completely free of charge for everyone, including users of the completely free Visual Studio Community edition. For firms like IdentityMine, it means that one of the major points of discussion during pre-sales and sales calls is now completely solved: No need to explain the Xamarin licensing model anymore, no need to explain to them how Xamarin creates more polished applications than other solutions on the market, and thus is well worth the price… that whole discussion suddenly became a non-issue. That’s exciting!
Miguel de Icaza and the technical keynote
After Nat’s more business-oriented keynote, it was time for Xamarin’s CTO Miguel de Icaza to take the stage. As usual, Miguel clearly articulated the new features in the Xamarin world. A few highlights:
- Xamarin brought quite a few improvements in the Visual Studio iOS integration. Most notably, there is now a tool allowing you to remote into your Mac from your PC, and use the iOS simulator directly from your PC screen. This is a huge advantage if your PC supports a touchscreen because then you get full blown multitouch support in your simulator window; this is of course not supported on Macs To be clear, you still need a Mac on the network, but you pretty much never need to touch it anymore, since all interaction happens directly from the PC.
- Similarly, Xamarin now supports USB port forwarding. This means that you can plug your iOS device in the PC instead of the Mac. The environment will then take care of forwarding the USB messages to the Mac and back to the device. This is great if, like me, your Mac is stored somewhere in an office, and you are working from somewhere else in the house. You can deploy and test your iOS app on a device without touching the Mac!
- Xamarin.Forms get themes: You can easily change the look and feel of your cross platform app using a set of styles that you apply to all your pages. This allows you to go even faster with Forms applications.
- Xamarin is partnering with Microsoft Azure to improve the Cloud testing environment. Xamarin “Test in the Cloud” offering is quite exciting and has been for a few years now. What is new now is a live viewer which allows you to see your application running on the remote physical device, and to use it. This is a nice addition to the already existing scripting solutions, and allows for a specific test on a specific device if needed.
The rest of the day was spent attending sessions. It was a collection of great technical insights, and can be watched online on the Evolve website.
Harry Potter and Jurassic Park
On the evening, all attendees gathered at the Harry Potter section of Universal Studio and had a great evening of magic, food and drinks, and a few great rides! It was a great way to unwind, and meet all the attendees and speakers in a relaxed atmosphere.
Day 2: Grant Imahara, more session, and the Woz!
On day 2, we had a special guest on the opening keynote: Grant Imahara of Mythbusters! Grant had a fun session with some cool pictures and videos from his days on the famous TV show, and some great robotic contraptions that he built over the years. Some very funny anecdotes too! It was a refreshing session, and one that was also inspiring
After the keynote, we attended more sessions, and I had the chance to speak about some recent improvements to the MVVM Light Toolkit, which allows for building decoupled cross platform applications in Windows XAML and Xamarin (iOS, Android and Forms). The talk was specifically about the databinding system that can be used in Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS. You can get more information about the talk, slides and sample code on my website, and you can watch the presentation here below.
Steve Wozniak and Miguel de Icaza close Evolve
The closing session introduced a special guest who needed no introductions: Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and engineer extraordinaire. His session was amazing and full of anecdotes from his past. This is a man who designed electronic circuits and refined them on paper over and over because real circuits were just too expensive. His amazing story can be witnessed online. Even Miguel de Icaza was left speechless or almost
This was the conclusion of two very intense days. I truly hope that Microsoft will keep Evolve alive next year because it is a very special conference. Its smaller size and the accessibility of all actors, from Xamarin’s ex-CEO and CTO all the way to developers and engineers, and all speakers truly made this an exceptional event.
Don't hesitate to contact us at IdentityMine for more information about our Xamarin work!