Dave Mitchell, director of product marketing for Microsofts Game Developer Group, said already more than 10 universities have pledged to teach courses on console game development and incorporate XNA Game Studio Express into their curricula. Such universities include the University of Southern California, Southern Methodist University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Rochester Institute of Technology. "Great game ideas are incubating in the minds of students everywhere," said Michael Zyda, director for Gamepipe Labs at USC, in a statement. "With XNA Game Studio Express, Microsoft is investing in these next-generation innovators, creating the canvas for dreamers to express their powerful game ideas. In incorporating XNA Game Studio Express and Xbox 360 consoles into our Gamepipe program, USC will be able to better provide game studios and publishers around the world with a newfound wellspring of talent and opportunity. Its ingenious."Meanwhile, companies like Autodesk and GarageGames.com are partnering with Microsoft in this effort. Satchell showcased these partners technology during his keynote. Through a Microsoft relationship with Autodesk, which develops 3-D authoring software, game developers can now more easily incorporate content into XNA Game Studio Express via Autodesks FBX file exchange format. Mark Frohnmayer, president of GarageGames, joined Satchell in his keynote to demonstrate ports of GarageGames next-generation Torque tools and technology over to the XNA Game Studio Express platform.For his part, Henson said the worlds of application development, game development, and development for mobile devices and embedded systems are beginning to all come together in terms of basic needs and platform support. And basing the Microsoft game development tools on the companys existing .Net framework was a given, he said. "We built everything on the stuff those guys have built," he said referring to Microsofts .Net architects. This is only the beginning for Microsofts efforts in the game space, particularly for its efforts to empower developers," Henson said. He referred to the recent activity in games and being the "crawl" phase. "As we move from the crawl, to the walk phase in the next two to five years, our goal is to blow out the Xbox world and make it more like a community-powered arcade." Henson said Microsoft has been "paying a lot of attention to empowering people through communities." Meanwhile, the company is also very interested in trying to get more girls interested in becoming developers. One way could be through games and game development around games and content that appeals more to girls, he said. Indeed, some of the university partners that Microsoft is working with hold summer software development camps where 30 percent of the enrollees are girls, he said. Through these and other programs, "Were reaching below the teen ranks," Henson said. "Were going to engage earlier and also bring a whole new set of games that girls like," such as Viva Pinata, Bejeweled, card games and puzzle games, he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.