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Hey, Xamarin – the Indie developer needs Visual Studio, too

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TL;DR – Xamarin should include Visual Studio support in their Indie subscription level OR at least add it on as a separate monthly cost.

When designing pricing for subscription-based software technologies, oftentimes the best features are saved for the most expensive subscriptions, and rightly so – the developers have the right to profit off of their creation and create higher prices for features they might not normally support.  However, a killer feature can sometimes be priced higher than is reasonable for smaller shops or indie developers, leaving some feeling left out in the cold, and I believe Xamarin is finding itself in the midst of this very pricing conundrum.

For those who don’t know, Xamarin is a mobile development platform that allows you to use C# (or F#) to program for the two biggest mobile platforms today, iOS and Android.  When you’re used to the .NET ecosystem and all of the conveniences it offers, such as LINQ, lambdas, garbage collection, etc., Xamarin becomes very appealing.  Xamarin’s vision is to maximize code reuse among all platforms and includes many great innovations such as Xamarin.Forms, which allows you to create one UI codebase for all three major mobile platforms (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.)

Xamarin’s pricing model is as follows: for indie devs or shops with five or less employees, you can pay $299/year per platform to develop using the Xamarin stack and their IDE, Xamarin Studio, an offshoot of the open source MonoDevelop.  The next subscription level is the Business level – at $999/year per seat per platform, it includes email support, in-house deployment capabilities, and – wait for it – full integration with Visual Studio, king of IDEs.  (The two final subscriptions are worth mentioning, but aren’t the focus of this post – Starter allows you to develop for free up to a certain app size and Enterprise gives some other high-end business features and support.)

Since Xamarin announced Visual Studio integration for Business subscribers, smaller shops and indie devs have asked for the Indie subscription to include Visual Studio support.  Their argument is that the Business edition is priced too high for them to seriously consider and that the included IDE, Xamarin Studio, doesn’t have many of the features that are available to Visual Studio, including major plugin support (ReSharper, anyone?)  It has been a major topic of discussion on Xamarin’s forums as well as social media, and is currently the 2nd highest voted request on Xamarin’s UserVoice page (1st being for a plugin for Visual Studio only.  Notice a pattern?)

Xamarin announced yesterday that it has changed the Indie pricing to $25 per month per platform, as opposed to $299 annually.  While a step in the right direction to get indie devs to jump to the Xamarin platform, it still doesn’t include Visual Studio integration.

Nat Friedman, I’m talking directly to you here.  You are missing a big opportunity to deliver more value to your customers and shareholders by opening up Visual Studio integration to your Indie developers.  $999/year per platform is simply too much for an individual to swallow – even with your 10% multi-platform discount, that’s $1,800 per year for one person!

Yes, your engineers have put a lot of valuable time into making Visual Studio a first-class citizen in the Xamarin ecosystem. I believe that feature alone has tremendous value, so much so that I believe if you make this change, you will see more Indie developers jump to your platform.  However, the value gained for the Indie subscription is not lost for the Business subscription.  In-house deployment and email support are more than enough reason for businesses to shell out $999/year per dev per platform, not to mention that you have to buy it anyways if you have more than five employees.  You have no shortage of enterprise customers anyways, judging by all the logos on Xamarin’s front page.

I believe that the change to the Indie platform to make it monthly is a move in the right direction, but can be vastly improved.  My humble suggestions to improve pricing for the Indie subscription level are as follows.

  • Include Visual Studio support for Indie devs.  I think you will find the adoption rate for Indie subscriptions will rise and, subsequently, your revenues.  I don’t believe Business subscription numbers will fall as a result, because there is still a lot of value in email support and in-house deployment, and you will gain additional market share from other mobile development platforms.  Win-win.  Plus, the more people who use your platform, the more valuable it becomes to others.  Win-win-win!
  • If not for free, then consider an add-on pricing model, where indie devs can subscribe to get certain features.  $5/month for Visual Studio support is priced nicely and is pretty attractive for any .NET dev looking to get into mobile development.  Perhaps even allow email support as an add-on, say, $5/month for two support tickets a month?
  • Offer better monthly discounts for multiple platforms.  $50/month sounds a bit steep for both iOS and Android.  $40/month sounds much more palatable.  Make it $45 with Visual Studio support.  That’s $540/year for Xamarin – not a bad take at all if you add even 1,000 indie developers to the mix.

Bottom line: I love Xamarin.  I love their vision for mobile development within the .NET ecosystem and they are well-supported and well-funded.  However, I believe that there are great opportunities for you to create even more value for your company and for developers alike.

That concludes my very first post – I hope you enjoyed it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Sound off in the comments or feel free to tweet me @schneidsDotNet.


  • Reply Jordan |

    Just a minor correction, the $999 business license allows you to use 1 account and activate it on 2 platforms simultandously. No separate license required for the Mac build host.

    • Reply Spencer Schneidenbach |

      Yes, that is true. When I say platform, I mean you must license each mobile platform separately, ie iOS and Android. Like you said, you can use one iOS license for your Windows and Mac machine.

  • Reply Oz |

    I agree. A lot of indie devs would pony up. Maybe an intermediate price would be good, but Xamarin would find a much vaster market, which would lead to reputation, sales, etc.

  • Reply Jake |

    I totally agree – what Xamarin is saying is “Our IDE isn’t very good. If you want a real good development experience, we’re going to make you pay.”

  • Reply R_o_b |

    The Express edition of Visual Studio doesn’t support Extensions so this is pointless. If you need to buy Visual Studio too then the cost is simply too high for their target audience.

    Microsoft could however allow this extension in Express (which they already do for some extensions) which would make your idea an actual option.

    • Reply Tom |

      As of November 2014 you can get VS Community edition that is free and does support Extensions.

  • Reply Ade Smith |

    As I’ve posted on the Xamarin forums, why not introduce an Indie Pro license which gives us VS integration, no restrictions on namespace usage and no support. Price this between Indie and Business at say $499 per developer per platform. I’d buy that.

  • Reply Carlos B |

    The price is excessive; I think many users are losing interest in the platform because they can’t pay, as my case, so I have to create a patch.

  • Reply Santiago |

    I love Xamarin, but I’ve only “tasted” it with the Indie per-month option, $50USD monthly is still a hit for me, but I’m more than happy to pay for that.

    However, everything else is excessive. Not only their software, but even their certifications! For a certification you pay $1,995USD anually, too. Compare it to the $450 cost of the MCSD certification (which lasts for two years), that’s four times the price! Heck, that’s even more than the full business plan ($1,800).

    With all this value I ended up learning how to code for iOS natively, and Java isn’t much of struggle, really, since its very similar to C# anyway. The struggle for paying and saving learning time is just not worth it.

  • Reply Mike Griffin |

    I’ve written two extensive Visual Studio plugins, they even generate code into the Visual Studio project files, it’s not that difficult. Xamarin priced me out of using there tools, I even created and published a free architecture called Tiraggo that runs under all Xamarin supported OS’s but Xamarin couldn’t care less. I wrote to them in search for a price break, nada. Thus I stopped all development that was Xamarin based.

  • Reply Alfred T |

    I totally agree with that. Also renewal for the full price every year isn’t acceptable for me. If you have a look at all the other 3rd party tool vendors like Telerik, DevExpress you always get a very good subscription at around $500 or even a full suite license at around $999. Subscription renewal is mostly around 50%. I really love Xamarin and as an individual developer I would go with that – but I wouldn’t spend more than 500 bucks a year for all plattforms including VS Integration.

  • Reply Mohamed |

    Indie pricing is the only one that makes sense for everyone i’ve chatted to (freelancers). Not including Visual Studio as an option is a deal breaker.
    Xamarin has lost about 25 potential customers who I know of that decided Business edition does not make financial sense.
    They all looked at other non-Xamarin options.

  • Reply John Parr |

    Students will get Visual Studio support. So where does that leave the Indie developer

  • Reply Durbs |

    Totally agree with this post. As a .NET dev interested in dabbling in mobile apps, Xamarin would suit me perfectly. I know the language inside out and VS is a dream to use. So, all perfect! Lets download it and get cracking!

    Until I check their pricing model……….Indie $25 per month. Ok, thats a little more than I expected to pay (and I don’t really like ‘renting’ my software) but the platform looks good so I’ll put up with it. Hang on, what does “per device platform” mean? I want to release my app on iOS, Android & Win Phone, does that mean I have to pay the fee 3x?

    Wow, this is building up in price a bit now, but at least I should be able to knock out this app easily as i’ll be working in C# and Visual Studio so probably still worth it?

    No, I won’t be able to, cause it doesn’t f*cking support Visual Studio! So we’re now talking 3x $83/month. Right, Xcode and Swift it is then!

  • Reply Tien |

    Not just that but there’s also binary size restrictions which isn’t friendly.

  • Reply Olumide |

    I’m an Independent developer.
    Indie subscription is my only feasible option right now, and it make sense to be able to combine it with Visual Studio Community Edition 2013 or 2015.
    I guess I’ll have to wait for that to happen before paying.

  • Reply Tom Miller |

    I, too, completely agree with this post. The thing that has me scratching my head is that before Xamarin, there was a Mono project called Mono Tools for Visual Studio (http://www.mono-project.com/archived/gettingstartedwithmonotools/) which I had installed and played with several years ago. However, sometime since Xamarin started offering Visual Studio integration, this open source project has all but disappeared. The page at the URL above has a link to http://mono-tools.com/download/, which now redirects to http://xamarin.com/download/.

    What gives?? I also agree with this post in that the Xamarin devs have the right to profit off of their creation, but this was as open source project to begin with, and even the repos are now no longer to be found…this is lame–they could have at least let the repo go stale and continued with their own private fork to develop the Xamarin integration on…

    Anyway, they should make this available, even if it is for a small additional price, to us Indie devs.


  • Reply David |

    I want to learn Xamarin as well, and I really wants the VS-support, but I am no full time developer so the money comes from my pocket and the 1000$ a year is just to much for someone like me. And I think many are in the same situation as me!
    I think that Xamarin loose all those hobby developers that can’t spend that much money.

  • Reply Randolf Rothfuss |

    I totally agree with Mr. Schneidenbach! Its a really great post and brings it to the point!
    I would pay (499 / 12 $) with VS Support! Now they make the fast Money but only in a shortrun!
    Microsoft should buy this Company, than we would get our VS Support for free!

  • Reply Hugo |

    Same here, I wanted to learn Xamarin too and have some indie project going on. The problem is the cost I need VS too I’m a .Net developer. So because of the cost I will go with an alternative, is bad because let say the indie cost was 50$ per month I will pay it and if my project sell good I won’t mind paying the business after but without VS integration is useless I can’t afford the price.

  • Reply Simon |

    Totally agree 100% with you and am pleased to have found people who share the same frustrations as myself..
    I am just getting into mobile development and am developing a couple of free apps for a client.
    Xamarin (and others) seem to think that it is only the big corporates who will be developing PAID apps and can therefore both afford the excessive initial outlay and also get a return form their investment.
    I am an MSDN subscriber and .net developer of 25+ years and have to say that Xamarin is a great tool, but as an individual (and after having had to invest in a mac), I too cannot afford the $1800+ per year subscription for the business edition for both IOS and Adnroid development, which is what I really need to be able to develop the sort of apps I want to effectively.
    I find myself constantly switching between Xamarin Studio on my PC and my Mac to do my development and it is a very frustrating process.
    It seems to be a common practise amongst these tool providers to price individual developers out of the market and just seem to want to focus on the big corporate software houses who will make lots of money for them, When it actually comes to it, most of us small one-man developers actually end up working for these big corporates and can also influence the technical decisions around which products to use for this sort of development.
    Telerik is another good example. i use their standard control suite for web and windows development, and I have looked at their hybrid tool for developing mobile apps in the past, but again, to be able to do effective cross platform app development, you have to spending around $150 per month.
    These companies need to get rid of their corporate mentatility and focus on the smaller developer who ultimately will be the foundation for their long term success by not only continuning to use their tools, but also recommending and influencing the decision of what tools and frameworks to use when starting new mobile projects for their larger clients.
    Please give us individual / one man developers either a lower cost cross platform development suite paid annually, or at least a monthly option that is affordable and dont assume that all of us are developing apps that can give us a short term return on our investment.

  • Reply Leo Mrozek |

    I completely agree with this post. I am both a corporate developer doing .NET programming and an indie developer where I build websites for clients as they come up and build apps for family and friends.

    Spending the $25-40 month for VS Integration for my indie apps would be ideal as I could potentially get my employer to pay for it as a training expense and using outside of my work environment and once I have experience where I am not wasting my corporate time learning to program mobile apps (there is no one in my company in this role), I would probably get the company to purchase a full business license for all environments.

  • Reply Arpad Stoever |

    I totally agree with this post. Wanted to buy a subscription but 999$ per Plattform each year. No way.
    25 bucks per month including VS support to test a project which you never know will be selling at all would be just inside the limit.

    So for now I will go else were or make native apps.

  • Reply Stewart Basterash |

    I’ve been fighting this battle for several years… Cost of development for small shops is significant… Between developer salary and component cost alone this becomes a significant issue… I went to a hybrid mobile model which will work across platforms, and the libraries are affordable and extensive for a mere $200 dollars per year… I looked at Xamarin several times… I was not impressed enough to byte the bullet… I have now moved my developers over to Android Studio (free)… C# skills translate easily, and the development is relatively straight forward… I have to say that it was easier than expected, however I have to be honest in saying that documentation and examples are limited at best…

  • Reply Aaron |

    Xamarin and similar products strive on inability of companies having multiple skillsets. But as an indie, i can use VS to test my concept on windows and if it pays, i wont have problem updaping myself with other platform or hire. It is ridiculus for opting to use VS for $999 for me.

  • Reply sean |

    I used xamarin at a previous company, IOS & Android business edition
    I loved using it. AFAIAC it worked perfectly with mvvmcross
    Now i no longer work there, but would like to use it in my spare time purely for fun (not as money making exercise), but cannot afford 999$ x 2/year and am not prepared to work in xamarin studio
    ,so , for the past year ,no xamarin and I guess not any time soon.

  • Reply Eric |

    just upgraded from starter to indie………lost my ability to build anything in visual studio because nowhere in my wildest dreams did I imagine they would not support visual studio with the indie edition.

    • Reply Randolf Rothfuss |

      I have stopped working with xamarin because of not working with visual studio. They should be happy when I work their product in connection with visual studio. I think this xamarin business will be killed because of that in the future! They must be silly!

  • Reply Danfer Habed Lopez |

    100% In agreement with this post. Hope someone at Xamarin (and MSFT) read it. We have Indie subscription at work. I love to work with Xamarin and their IDE works, though sometimes not so well, for example, there are things I still need to do at VS, like updating packages because Nuget version used at Xamarin Studio. Of course, I can’t even compile the code at VS and have to do that at Xamarin Studio (because we have Indie subscription).

So, what do you think ?