Microsoft offers free software to students

Software giveaway hopes to encourage next generation of developers and programmers to use Microsoft technology.

Microsoft is giving away its latest professional software to encourage students around the world to develop their skills with the company's programming tools.

The DreamSpark program allows university students to download for free a variety of Microsoft's professional development and design software. The program will initially be available to students in the UK, US, Canada, China, and seven European countries. Six million students in the UK are currently eligible to use DreamSpark.

Microsoft hopes the multi-million dollar offer will increase the company's presence on campuses and familiarize the next generation of software developers with its products. By making the software so widely available, students who may never have interacted with these programs will now have an opportunity to do so.

"Software tools and platforms are no longer exclusive to those studying computing," Steve Beswick, director of education at Microsoft UK, said.

Potential users must be confirmed as university students before they are allowed access to the program. As there is no international database of students for Microsoft to cross check applicants with, the company will work with a variety of government and education partners to verify a student's status.

After registering with the program, students can choose from a selection of Microsoft's professional software development and programming tools. Software available for download includes the Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition and Expression Studio.

Microsoft plans to expand the availability of DreamSpark to students in other countries besides the original eleven. Also, the program will be available to secondary school students within the next year.

The technological innovation industry is expected to produce 7.1 million new jobs worldwide in the next four years, according to a study by IDC.

"Making sure there is a strong pipeline of technically skilled students is key to the future of the global economy," said Joe Wilson, senior director of academic initiatives for developer and platform evangelism at Microsoft. "The ability to create new software and services will be an essential part of the skill set of the next generation of workers."

However, Microsoft's previous attempts to expand its reach into the classroom even further are not welcome by everyone.

Becta, the government's education and technology agency, expressed concern last year about Microsoft's role in the school software industry. Becta has previously complained to the Office of Fair Trading, alleging Microsoft used anti-competitive practices in the market.


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