Written by Kush Depala - Microsoft Student Partner and advocate of Coding for Kids.

Big things are happening at Microsoft. With the release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and Windows Phone gaining traction, there has never been a better time to start developing for the two Operating Systems. The Windows Phone Application Marketplace is taking off, and creating an application that is well received could lead to thousands of downloads, and student developers can even win a free Windows Phone for their effort. And with the release of the Windows 8 Store in the Consumer Preview, you could be one of the first people in the country to have a fully-fledged Windows 8 application, for people to download, especially when the new edition of Windows releases.

But where should you begin? Well, as students, you have the ability to download professional-grade, industry-standard development tools for free. That’s right, for free. Microsoft DreamSpark provides these tools to students. All you need is your ISIC card, a .ac.uk email address or an activation code from your school/college/university IT department, then go to www.dreamspark.com/ and sign up. There are countless tools available, from Windows Server Editions, Kodu Game Studio, to Expression Studio, to Visual Studio, and so much more.

As developers, Visual Studio is the place to be, and not just for the reasons aforementioned. Visual Studio is a brilliant place to start application development, due to the speed and simplicity of its User Interface, and the base coding provided by the software. With pre-built templates for Windows Phone applications, and now, Windows 8 applications, transforming ideas into reality has never been so easy. You can even have the choice of a plethora of languages to code in. And cross-software interaction with Expression Studio is a joy to use.

And, with your DreamSpark account, membership to AppHub is free as well, meaning that Windows Phone applications (as well as independent X-Box games) can be put onto the marketplace at no cost! Resources for developers are rich and numerous as well, from MSDN posts, to Channel 9 tutorials help is at hand for almost every query possible.

The tools are free, the software is simple, all we need is you.