Navigating the Tech Shift in Smart Manufacturing: Migrating from Xamarin.Forms to .NET MAUI 

Xamarin to MAUI migration in manufacturing

The future of digital innovation

In the fast-paced world of digital technology, change is the lifeblood of innovation. It is like the tide, constantly moving, shaping the landscape, and bringing in new possibilities. For manufacturers of test & measurement instruments, devices, machines, and equipment as well as their industrial SaaS providers, riding this tide of change is not just an option, it is a necessity in order to stay a step ahead of the competition.

One such significant switch is the transition from Xamarin.Forms to .NET Multi-platform App UI (MAUI). This shift can redefine the future of cross-platform app development and open new avenues of business opportunities.

The Xamarin legacy: A decade of digital transformation

For nearly a decade, Xamarin.Forms has acted as a trusted ally for developers worldwide by helping them transform complex coding tasks into simple, manageable processes. It has been instrumental in enabling businesses to develop powerful apps from a single, shared codebase, driving a wave of business transformation across industries. It's been the catalyst that is reshaping the landscape of cross-platform app development.

What makes Xamarin.Forms such a game-changer? Let's look at the key features:

  • Robust platform for cross-platform app development
  • Native API support
  • Ensures faster go-to-market
  • Allows up to 100% of shared core logic
  • Lowers learning curve

There are several real-world apps developed using Xamarin.Forms, including a mobile app for field services, mobile app for smart home control, and a mobile app for smart facilities management to name a few. But as they say, all good things must evolve. As technology continues to advance, so do the tools that power it. Microsoft, the tech giant behind Xamarin.Forms, has made a strategic decision. They've announced that support for Xamarin.Forms will end on May 1, 2024.

The dawn of .NET MAUI: A new era of opportunities

Let's turn our attention to the horizon, where a new era in cross-platform development is dawning with the introduction of .NET MAUI - an evolution of Xamarin.Forms, meticulously designed to elevate cross-platform app development to unprecedented heights.

This cross-platform framework enables the creation of native mobile and desktop apps using C# and XAML from a single, shared codebase. With .NET MAUI, you can develop apps capable of running on multiple platforms, including Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows.

Let's delve into its key features:

  • Intuitive and developer-friendly architecture
  • Unified project structure and shared resources
  • Improved performance

The transition to .NET MAUI represents a notable shift, bringing a host of benefits for both developers and businesses. It is like opening a new chapter, where app creation is simplified, management is efficient, and performance is optimized.

An example of its successful application can be seen in a case study involving a leading manufacturer of remote data monitoring equipment. The company collaborated with a Xamarin development partner, Saviant to initially build a Xamarin app to communicate with their BLE-enabled devices. However, with the release of .NET MAUI, the team migrated the app to this new platform in a swift span of just 6-7 weeks, enhancing the application's reach and upgrading its compatibility with the latest platform APIs.

The superiority of .NET MAUI: A comparative analysis with Xamarin.Forms

Understanding the advantages of .NET MAUI over Xamarin.Forms is critical as we step into this transformative phase of cross-platform app development. Highlighting these contrasting features further emphasizes the superiority of .NET MAUI:

Feature  Xamarin.Forms  .NET MAUI 
Project structure  Separate projects for each platform  Unified project structure for all platforms 
UI capabilities Struggles with advanced UI requirements  Flexible rendering architecture allows for rich, platform-specific experiences 
Performance  Can have performance issues  Significant performance improvements, including faster startup times, reduced memory footprint, and overall improved app performance
Control over native platform controls  Limited control, often requiring custom renderers  More control over the native platform controls, reducing the need for custom renderers 

The flip side: Potential migration hurdles and business implications

While the transition from Xamarin.Forms to .NET MAUI is a promising development, it is important to approach it with a balanced perspective. Like any meaningful change, it comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some potential hurdles that may arise during the transition:

  • Time and resources: Migration requires considerable time and resources, including training, updating documentation, and potentially refactoring code.
  • Compatibility issues: There may be features or third-party libraries in Xamarin.Forms that are not yet available or work differently in .NET MAUI.
  • Learning curve: .NET MAUI introduces new features and concepts that may require time for developers to learn.
  • Migration of custom renderers: Custom renderers in Xamarin.Forms will need to be migrated to .NET MAUI's Handlers, which can be complex.
  • App testing: Thorough testing will be required to ensure that your app works correctly on all platforms.

However, with careful planning, these challenges can be navigated successfully. The benefits of migrating to .NET MAUI - such as improved performance and the ability to leverage the latest advancements in technology - far outweigh these challenges.

Saviant’s Xamarin App Maturity Model: A strategic perspective

In the manufacturing industry, the decision to migrate and the urgency of migration can depend on several factors, including the nature of your industrial mobile app, its dependency on platform-specific APIs, and its update frequency. Saviant’s Xamarin App Maturity Model serves as a guide to help you assess your situation and plan your migration accordingly.

Maturity Level - Xamarin app type Description MAUI migration strategy
Level 1 - Apps that do not need frequent updates or feature releases These could be read-only or data entry apps Migration can be deprioritized
Level 2 - Apps that need frequent updates but are not heavily dependent on platform-specific APIs These could be enterprise applications or field service applications Plan for migration, but it is not an urgent requirement.
Level 3 - Apps that need frequent updates and heavily depend on platform-specific APIs These could be apps that communicate with devices It is high time to plan for migration

Regardless of where your app falls in this maturity model level, migrating to .NET MAUI offers important benefits that can enhance your app's performance and future-proof it.

The Migration Process: A step-by-step guide for your MAUI development team

Transitioning from Xamarin.Forms to .NET MAUI is a significant undertaking. However, with the right approach and guidance, it can be a smooth and efficient process. Here is a step-by-step guide to help your team to navigate this transition:

Step 1: Pause Xamarin work: The first step is to focus on the migration process and ensure that no new changes are introduced during the transition.

Step 2: Install Visual Studio 2022: .NET MAUI requires Visual Studio 2022. Make sure to download and install the latest version of Visual Studio to prepare for the migration.

Step 3: Update to Xamarin Forms 5.0: Before starting the migration, ensure that your app is running on Xamarin Forms 5.0. This is the latest version of Xamarin.Forms and is necessary for a smooth transition to .NET MAUI.

Step 4: Analyze third-party packages: Take a close look at the third-party packages used in your app. Find out if there are alternatives available in MAUI for any non-UI package. For third-party UI packages, check if there are MAUI alternatives. If not, consider designing those using MAUI Graphics API.

Step 5: Plan for custom renderers: Custom renderers often require special attention during migration. Decide how to handle these in your app. In many cases, .NET MAUI provides more control over the native platform controls, reducing the need for custom renderers.

Navigating this transition can be made easier with the right partner. A partner like Saviant, with its expertise in Xamarin and .NET MAUI, can provide the guidance and support you need to make this migration a success.

Conclusion: Embracing the future of cross-platform app development

The end of Xamarin.Forms and the dawn of .NET MAUI is an exciting opportunity for the businesses in manufacturing industry to embrace the future of cross-platform app development. While the transition may come with its challenges, the potential business benefits and opportunities for innovation make it a worthwhile endeavour. As we move forward into this new era, it is crucial to stay ahead of the curve and leverage the latest advancements in technology to drive business success.

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