Microsoft Gives Software to Students

With a tools giveaway, Microsoft seeds the market for future developers - trying to hook them while they are young, before they become entrenched in Java or open-source tools.

Microsoft plans to arm students with the company's developer and design tools for free to help them fulfill their creative goals now and to help seed the market for developers working on the Microsoft platform in the future.

In a speech scheduled for Feb. 19 at Stanford University, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is expected to formally launch the effort known as the Microsoft DreamSpark student program. The DreamSpark program makes available, at no charge, a broad range of development and design software for download. The program is now available to more than 35 million college students in Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Joe Wilson, senior director of Academic Initiatives for Developer and Platform Evangelism at Microsoft, said, "The software is one of the greatest currencies we have that we can give to students. We'll make any pro-level designer and development tools available to university students now and to high school students in the fall. We hope it will make a big difference with students in school and also be a head start for their careers."

The DreamSpark program includes free access to Microsoft development tools including Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition, Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, XNA Game Studio 2.0, and a 12-month free academic membership in the XNA Creators Club. The designer tools covered by the program include the Expression Studio, which consists of Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Design, and Expression Media. Microsoft also is providing students free licenses to SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition and Windows Server, Standard Edition, as part of the program, Wilson said.

Some observers said they view the program as another Microsoft initiative to not only draw more developers to the Microsoft platform, but to catch them while they are young and before they might become entrenched in Java or open-source tools.

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT Inc., said, "Every vendor understands that keeping a computing platform healthy and up to date requires regular infusions of new blood, i.e., programmers and developers. By proactively offerings students free access to development tools and software, Microsoft aims to help create fresh interest in and future development on Windows platforms. The main challenge will be in how they decide to measure the program's success. Will it be in the sheer number of student downloads or will they try to track events like new product/tool developments arising from those downloads? The latter approach offers more tangible benefits."

Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said the program "should help to get students interested in software and programming. Also, given that people don't like to retrain, this will be the seeds for a new generation of programmers who drive the Microsoft platforms into the private and public sectors. Without efforts like this Microsoft's long-term future is less certain."