Microsoft is helping people build iPhone and Android apps, for free

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Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

Microsoft cloud head Scott Guthrie at Build 2016

In February, Microsoft snapped up Xamarin - a hot startup that makes it super simple for developers to write an app once and have it run on any device or web browser.

At today's Microsoft Build event Microsoft cloud boss Scott Guthrie shared the company's master plan for Xamarin. And judging from the applause, that plan has developers very hyped.

The short version is that Xamarin is now integrated with Microsoft's mega-popular Visual Studio, the software that developers use to write yet more software. What's more, that integration is totally free, Guthrie says, even for developers using the free Visual Studio Community edition.

That means developers now have a way to easily build PC, Mac, Android, and iPhone apps, all from Windows, and all for free.

Plus, Microsoft is releasing Xamarin's code as open source, meaning that any developer anywhere can look under the hood to see how it works and tweak it to their own needs - or, hypothetically, bring it even beyond Windows.

It's all part of Microsoft's play to attract as many developers to Windows as possible. Just yesterday, Microsoft announced that the mega-popular Bash command line interface is coming from Linux to Windows.

Xamarin also makes it fairly trivial to bring apps to the Windows Store app market for PC and smartphones. That's a good thing because Microsoft has struggled to get developers on board with its smartphone business.

The clear hope is that by bringing Xamarin to Visual Studio, it'll be the carrot that gets tons of developers over to Windows, whether or not they're actually building PC apps. From there, Microsoft is banking that they'll stick around and make more Windows apps and use more Microsoft Azure cloud services, and so everybody wins.

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