Microsoft Gives Free Software to IT Students

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft is giving students free access to some of its leading tools for developing software and creating web sites. The project, called Dreamspark, is designed to encourage pupils to learn the skills needed for a career in the software and computing industry.

The package includes Visual Studio (a facility for developing software), Expression Studio (which includes graphic and web design tools) and XNA Game Studio (which is used for creating video games).

Around 35 million high school students in the US, China and several Western European countries are eligible for the scheme now. School children in the rest of the world should have access from the fall, with the scheme extended to college students next year. Microsoft claims the project could eventually make software available to a billion students.

Chairman Bill Gates said the scheme was more effective than previous projects to offer education discounts. "We give up some revenue, but we gain the fact that we'll get the feedback of these students, get more courses to incorporate our tools into the programs and get more startups where kids are familiar with [Microsoft programs]."

Industry analysts say the scheme may also be designed to try to capture future customers. It's already clear Expression Studio is intended as a rival to the popular Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator programs. Microsoft clearly hopes students will become used to their products, and may even use Microsoft software in place of cheaper open source alternatives if they go on to launch their own computer-based firms. (Source:

Unlike previous Microsoft schemes, Dreamspark will allow students to download the software themselves rather than have it provided through a school or college system. However, the firm is still working on a scheme to make sure downloaders are genuinely enrolled students.

The software will be available under an educational license, meaning it won't be legal for business use. Unfortunately, this may not make any difference in practice because the programs will continue working after students leave their school or college. (Source:

Microsoft is billing this as an altruistic scheme, but they don't seem to be making much effort to deny it's a great marketing ploy. The only drawback is that this type of software is still probably going to be mainly used by computer buffs rather than attracting new youngsters to the field software development.

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