Microsoft is bringing Visual Studio, its widely used tool for writing software, to Apple’s Macs.
The news will be announced at Microsoft’s Connect conference later this week, but it was revealed early when the official blog entry went live a few days before. The blog has since been taken down, but a cached version remains via Google.
Visual Studio is how a lot of programmers get work done, particularly those building software for Microsoft Windows or the web.
Bringing Visual Studio to Apple MacOS, the operating system preferred by many programmers, is going to turn a lot of heads. It’s just the latest way Microsoft is reaching across the aisle to former rivals to win over programmers.
There’s a catch: As Ars Technica points out in more technical detail, Visual Studio for Mac may share a name and aesthetic with its PC counterpart, but it won’t be exactly the same as Visual Studio for Windows.
Under the hood, the Mac version of Visual Studio mainly functions as an update to Xamarin Studio, a tool for quickly and easily building apps that can run on Windows, iPhone, Android, Mac, the web, or anywhere else. Microsoft got Xamarin Studio, alongside the rest of Xamarin’s technology, in a big buy earlier in 2016.
In the same way that Microsoft’s excellent Outlook apps for iPhone and Android are a direct successor to Acompli, a startup Microsoft bought in 2014, this new Visual Studio for Mac looks to be a new name and face for Xamarin’s technology.
Lots of programmers love Xamarin in its own right, though. So while Visual Studio for Windows may be more powerful on paper, there are still lots of developers who will still be able to do what they need to do on the Mac version, too.
And it’s a big flag in the ground for Microsoft — Xamarin Studio, and now Visual Studio for Mac, are designed to make it really easy for programmers to build their apps to the Microsoft Azure cloud, which is a big focus for Microsoft. By bringing a flagship brand to Mac, Microsoft is hoping to give that business a leg up.