In what is seen as a monumental shift in strategy, Microsoft has announced plans to open source the entire .NET stack. In addition, the company is going to give developers a way to use .NET and Visual Studio to develop software that runs not only on Windows, but also on Mac OSX, Android, Linux and iOS.
Prior to this, you could only build apps with .NET for Windows desktops and servers. If you wanted to run .NET on other platforms like OSX, Linux, iOS and Android, you had to use a third party run time called Mono. While it was a good compromise, native .NET development on these platforms is going to be significantly better.
Microsoft is also releasing a fully featured Community version of Visual Studio 2013 which will be free to use for indie devs, students and small companies. The version will include access to thousands of plugins, Resharper and other tools that were previously behind a paywall. The familiar and quite feature-limited Express versions of Visual Studio will eventually be replaced by the Community edition.
The company has also released previews for Visual Studio 2015 and .NET 2015. New additions in the feature set will make it easy for developers to write apps that run on Android, Windows and iOS.
The changes come after Satya Nadella took over as CEO, and are part of a broader strategy shift that aims to put the focus on cloud and mobile solutions. Traditional money makers like Windows and Office has been undergoing major changes, with Office being offered for free for Android and iOS recently.
Overall, this is a huge deal. Microsoft’s software development platforms and developer tools are absolutely amazing, as anyone who has worked with them will tell you. By allowing them to be used for development for other platforms, Microsoft is making a lot of developers very happy. It also shows that the company is leaving its legacy roots behind and embracing the requirements of the new internet age.