olly - Fotolia

Microsoft's Xamarin Live Player speeds up iOS app development

Xamarin Live Player will allow developers to write and test iOS mobile apps more quickly, without requiring a Mac on hand to debug the application.

SEATTLE -- Developers can now build and test iOS apps on Windows PCs faster than before, helping IT shops get apps into the hands of users more efficiently.

The new tool, Xamarin Live Player, allows Visual Studio developers to connect their Windows PC to an Apple iPhone or iPad and test and debug the app natively -- without the need for a Mac. This capability can help streamline the iOS app development process, and in turn, let organizations bring apps to end users quicker and with fewer issues off the bat.

"I really like the iOS debugging feature," said Justin Cummings, senior programmer and analyst at Kamps Pallets Inc., a pallet supplier in Grand Rapids, Mich. "That is really cool and will be helpful to us. We're going to start using Xamarin through Visual Studio to make our mobile apps in the future."

What's new    

Microsoft announced Xamarin Live Player at its Build conference here this week. Prior to this release, for developers to debug an iOS app built with Microsoft's Visual Studio services, they would need their Windows PC to be on the same Wi-Fi network as a Mac with the Xcode integrated development environment (IDE). They would also have to install and use app emulator software, which can be time-consuming.

With Xamarin Live Player, developers can connect an iPhone or iPad to their Windows PC, scan a QR code, and select the Debug option to debug the app. Xamarin Live Player also lets developers see the changes in code that they make take place in the app in real time.

The real benefit here is you should be able to write, test and debug an iOS app much quicker.
Patrick Moorheadpresident and principal analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy

Eliminating the need to have a physical Mac in their environment makes iOS app development easier for developers on Windows, said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of research firm Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas.

"The real benefit here is you should be able to write, test and debug an iOS app much quicker," Moorhead said.

Still friendly to Mac users

Getting rid of the Mac requirement is not Microsoft trying to push developers away from Macs, however. In fact, Microsoft also released Visual Studio for Mac at the event, allowing developers who prefer Macs to build apps on Visual Studio the same way they would on Windows.

Plus, deploying an iOS mobile app to the App Store requires Xcode, which only runs on Macs. So even if developers build and debug an iOS app without a Mac using Xamarin Live Player, they'll need Xcode on a Mac to actually submit it to the App Store.

Benefits of Xamarin

Microsoft acquired Xamarin in March 2016, and integrated it with its app development platform, Visual Studio. Typically, when a developer writes an app for multiple OSes, they have to write the app from the ground up for each OS they want their app to run on. But Xamarin lets developers write an application one time and port it to multiple OSes, including iOS, Google Android, Windows and macOS. 

"That's one of the reasons we will pick up Xamarin," Cummings said. "I also like Xamarin because it allows you to build apps using C# and I love C#."

Xamarin Live Player also supports Android devices, but developers with Visual Studio could already debug an Android app natively. Microsoft made Xamarin Live Player available on the App Store and the Google Play Store during the Build conference.

Next Steps

Apple iOS app development guide

What to look for in an app development tool

Create standards for app development and delivery

Dig Deeper on Apple iOS in the enterprise