To get even more students to use its software tools, Microsoft will be giving away its software in an initiative called DreamSpark. From this week onwards, college students in 10 countries -- such as the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, and Germany -- will be able to get Microsoft's Visual Studio for free.
In addition, the students will be able to get free access to Microsoft Expression Web design tools, XNA Game Studio for developing Xbox 360 software, and even Windows Server and the developer version of the SQL Server database. The program is expected to be expanded over the next year to college and high school students worldwide.
The idea of DreamSpark is to get students to start using Microsoft's tools early.
Microsoft's senior director of academic initiatives, Joe Wilson, told CNET's News.com: "That next generation and future generations of technologists, they are vital to any industry leader like us." He further added that his goal "is to be able five years from now to spot businesses that got their start because a student used Microsoft's tools for free."
If you recall, Microsoft already provides "academic" versions of many of its software at steep discounted rates. In fact, stripped-down "express" editions of Visual Studio have been able to be downloaded for free for a while now.
Perhaps Microsoft is feeling the heat from schools in less-developed countries that have increasingly chosen to employ cheaper open-source or even free software in their schools as part of the curriculum. Whatever the case, cash-strapped students (aren't they always?) will certainly benefit from access to the free software.
Share with us your thoughts on the matter. Just how much difference will the above software make?
And no, before you ask, Microsoft Office will not be given away for free. You can read the press release here.
Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.