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Microsoft .NET Conf: Focus on Xamarin

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Last week, the second edition of the .NET Conf: Focus series took place, focusing on Xamarin. Xamarin extends the .NET platform with tools and libraries specifically for building mobile apps. The focus conferences are free, one-day livestream events featuring speakers from the community and .NET product teams. The first event of the series was earlier this year in January, focused on Blazor.  

The focus series is a branch off of the original .NET Conf, an annual event organized by the .NET community and Microsoft that showcases the latest developments for the .NET platform. The 2019 edition of .NET Conf was a three-day event where Microsoft officially released .NET Core, ASP.NET, and EF Core 3.0, together with C# 8.0 and F# 4.7. In opposition, each focus event targets a specific .NET-related technology, providing a series of in-depth, hands-on sessions aimed at .NET developers.

.NET Conf: Xamarin was the largest Xamarin digital event of the year. The conference started with an overview of the latest developments related to Xamarin and mobile development. In this context, Amanda Silver, CVP of product for developer tools at Microsoft, talked about Xamarin and its relationship with Visual Studio. Performance, productivity, and support to modern mobile development were particularly emphasized: Xamarin's install size was reduced from 23GB (Visual Studio 2017) to 6 GB (Visual Studio 2019), providing faster install and startup times. XAML Hot Reload, Hot Restart (features for faster debugging and testing), and IntelliCode (smart coding assistance) were also highlighted.

The keynote also included a Xamarin development overview presented by David Ortinau and Maddy Leger, program managers for mobile development tools at Microsoft. The presentation featured an overview of the architecture of Xamarin apps and other topics presented in more detail during the conference, mostly related to Xamarin Forms functionalities and APIs. An interesting topic not covered in the following sessions, however, was the preview release of AndroidX Migrator, a tool to migrate Android projects to Xamarin.

The remainder of the sessions were short (approx. 30 minutes), mostly following the keynote emphasis on performance and productivity. Other topics included: using Azure services to create a mobile backend for apps, creating dual-screen experiences, testing mobile applications, and using Reactive Extensions. One session, in particular, was targeted at ASP.NET developers, showing how they could start developing mobile applications with side-by-side feature implementation comparisons.

A relevant takeaway from the conference is how the recent developments on Xamarin are aligned with Microsoft's efforts on establishing Visual Studio as a unified development platform. In the same manner, .NET 5 is announced as a unifying platform for desktop, Web, cloud, mobile, gaming, IoT, and AI applications.

The next focus events start in June (expected), after Microsoft Build. Recordings of all .NET Conf and .NET Conf: Focus events are available in curated playlists on MSDN Channel 9.

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