Xamarin offers free app-building tools to students

Mobile app development platform Xamarin now includes a free offering for students as the race for mobile development accelerates.

Xamarin has launched a new program designed to get its popular mobile app building platform into the hands of America's students, because children are our future or something like that.

Xamarin's platform theoretically makes it fly-simple to write an app once in C# and quickly and easily adapt it for Macs, PCs, iPhones and Android devices, with 90% of the work already done for you. That last 10% of custom work is what makes it feel like a native app, which is a huge differentiator when building for mobile.

Meanwhile, the Xamarin for Students developer initiative was announced in a blog post this week: Any student "enrolled in a degree or diploma-granting course of study" can get access to the entire Xamarin Indie program for free. Xamarin Indie, incidentally, usually costs $25 per user per seat: It's Xamarin's offering for individuals who want to go beyond its bare-bones free-for-all pricing tier with larger apps and pre-made app templates.

The second part of Xamarin's student outreach is a new program that allows interested developers to apply to become ambassadors, teaching their peers the value of developing on top of the platform and giving talks -- in exchange for a free subscription to the Xamarin Business suite, which is ordinarily billed at $999 a year. In addition, student ambassadors get to attend the Xamarin Evolve conference event and get better access to corporate home base.

For those keeping score at home, Xamarin likes to boast that it has over 500,000 developers on the platform. It's tight with Microsoft, too, with special pricing for Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and robust support for .NET environments.

The reason for all that enthusiasm? As enterprises everywhere ramp up their mobile strategies, there's a race on to get on the app bandwagon or risk getting left behind. And you don't want to get left behind. Outside the warm, nurturing light of the smartphone screen, it is dark, and it is cold, and there are wolves.

Not to go Dune on you, but whoever controls the developer, controls the world -- after all, every company is a technology company now. Xamarin wants those developers, and it wants to give them the tools they need to rule the software-eaten world with an iron fist.

Skewing a little younger than the usual hoodie-wearing pro developer to find a new customer base is good business -- especially when those developers take Xamarin into their new place of employment after school.

Xamarin is far from the only company in this very competitive space helping mobile developers rapidly, well, develop. But it's the first we know of to offer students free access to the platform.

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