Microsoft Giving Away Visual Studio, SQL 2005, Expression to College Students

High school students targeted next

Microsoft Corp. announced that it will be giving away Visual Studio 2005 and 2008, SQL Server 2005, Windows Server Standard Edition, XNA Game Studio 2.0, and its Expression suite of products to college students worldwide -- and eventually to high school students.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announced the program, called DreamSpark, on the company's Channel 8 site. The downloads will be available on the site here.

Currently, only 11 countries are eligible -- including the U.S., Canada, China, and several European countries -- but Microsoft said it will be expanding the program to many more countries by the third quarter of this year. To determine eligibility for the free software, "the system is linked to schools and organizations around the world that can confirm student status."

"We want to do everything we can to equip a new generation of technology leaders with the knowledge and tools they need to harness the magic of software to improve lives, solve problems and catalyze economic growth," Gates said in a prepared announcement about the program. "Microsoft DreamSpark provides professional-level tools that we hope will inspire students to explore the power of software and encourage them to forge the next wave of software-driven breakthroughs."

As for why the company chose the software it did for the program, Joe Wilson, Microsoft's senior director of academic initiatives, commented in a released statement: "We hand-picked the products that make up DreamSpark with the current and future development of the IT industry in mind; so by design, the offering straddles three of the industry's highest growth segments: development, design, and gaming.

"The Expression Studio suite helps students bring their creative visions to life with new design concepts and more impactful digital content," Wilson noted.