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Playing catchup with Open Source – Microsoft gives out (more) free software to students

Microsoft gives students access to technical software at no charge to inspire success and make a difference

Or Microsoft is playing catchup with the open source community, and is trying to hook students onto their technology before they get accustomed to having alternatives. Either way, we get some professional grade software out of this. Score.

Microsoft DreamSpark download pack

The downloads are available from channel8.msdn.com, but you have to verify yourself (through Windows Live ID) as a University student in one of “supported” countries. Yes, that does include Canada. Alfred Thompson points out that availability to high schools is coming soon, and has more commentary on his blog.

So what’s in this pro-grade package?

  • Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition — I suppose this would be a nice upgrade over the already free Visual Studio Express
  • Expression Studio — a package of web and media design tools. WYSIWYG editors, *yieks*
  • Windows Server, Standard Edition — well hey, it’s a fully licensed copy of Windows to run those virtualization images
  • Though my personal favourite is:

  • 12-month free membership in the XNA Creators Club — finally you can run your own code on your own Xbox 360 without having to pay for it… well… for a limited time.

Bottom line — I think this is simply too little, too late. This is nothing substantial or new. A lot of this software is already distributed through Universities via differently named channels (MSDN Academic Alliance). Still, I think this move can be interpreted as a sign of changing (changed?) trends, and Microsoft’s acknowledgment of the Open Source community’s involvement with students and developers. At Pro level. The best is yet to come.

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Discussion

  1. Posted by Anthony Aziz | February 20, 2008, 9:02 am

    While I don’t think Microsoft will ever quiet beat out Open Source software, this certainly isn’t a bad thing! Considering that my school gives us licensed copies of Visual Studio 2005 (I assume only for the duration of school), having 2008 would be nice, along with these other software packages.

    And while it’s a pirate’s life for me (yarr), it’s always better to have completely free, legit software than those … backups.

    However, like I said, I don’t think Microsoft is doing anything here in trying to compete with Open Source. Freeness is only one benefit of open source. I doubt Microsoft Office or Visual Studio will ever be fully open sourced, and the benefits that come with that (great support for different features, for example – I don’t think word can open .odt or Word Perfect files by default, by Open Office sure as hell can, without that hefty price tag).

    Anyways, nothings wrong with free stuff, of course!

    Reply to comment

  2. Posted by Anthony Aziz | February 20, 2008, 9:10 am

    Also, I’d like to add that Canadian Students will need an ISIC card. I *think* you can get one free: http://www.isic.org/sisp/index.htm?fx=isic.offices&country.code=CA

    Reply to comment

  3. Posted by Getting Started with the XNA Creators Club | February 20, 2008, 11:55 am

    [...] Playing catchup with Open Source – Microsoft gives out (more) free software to students [...]

  4. Posted by michaelp | February 20, 2008, 5:34 pm

    Thanks for this, I have an Xbox 360 and was always somewhat interested in the XNA thing. Might give it a try now.

    Reply to comment

  5. Posted by Jarek Piórkowski | February 20, 2008, 9:14 pm

    License for a Windows Server 2003? I’m in. My XP key went to the family, and another non-Vista OS is welcome.

    Reply to comment

  6. Posted by Daniel Spohn | February 20, 2008, 10:57 pm

    I don’t really think that Microsoft is trying to be a better company, in this case. I think that they are trying to get the university students hooked on their products, so that when they go into the business world, they will know and want to use the Microsoft products. All this is, is advertising for them.

    Reply to comment

  7. Posted by Tony | February 20, 2008, 11:46 pm

    @Jarek — UW gives out free XP Pro keys to students. You can get one if you haven’t already.

    @Daniel — there’s certainly some truth to this. I’ve read some other comments that suggest that Expression Studio serves as a push for Microsoft’s web technologies, Silverlight specifically.

    Reply to comment

  8. Posted by Jarek Piórkowski | February 21, 2008, 10:27 am

    Yeah. My university-provided XP Pro key went to my family, like I mentioned. There’s only so many times you can activate a given key.

    Reply to comment

  9. Posted by wtd | February 23, 2008, 4:01 am

    Microsoft is desperately hoping they can redefine “open source” as a marketing buzzword, rather than a style of development almost entirely detached from economics and instead driven by what people really want.

    They’re really good at the former, and have a less than stellar track record with the latter.

    Reply to comment

  10. Posted by Ben Chun | February 26, 2008, 8:32 pm

    I remember when I was in school for CS (graduated 2000), Microsoft was giving away their visual J development environment. It worked and I used it in one of my classes. But if the strategy was to make me fall in love with Microsoft and their tools or something like that, it didn’t work. A monkey in silk is a monkey no less — even at the low price of free. I think relevance and quality are the ultimate benchmarks. They might sway the install base a little here or there with this strategy, but if you can’t get a job out of school using the tool then it pretty much doesn’t matter. I still write Java, but I haven’t seen the inside of a Microsoft IDE for 5 years.

    Reply to comment

  11. Posted by David | February 27, 2008, 8:19 am

    Visual Studio is a terrible compiler. Poorly implemented, full of bugs and as a result it crashes often and library’s and other essential components are missing.

    Reply to comment

  12. Posted by Martin | March 1, 2008, 1:30 pm

    Visual Studio is one of my guilty pleasures. It’s one of the few programs that I actually enjoy using, rather than just tolerate (the other being vim, strangely enough). If there’s one thing that Microsoft really understands, it’s the development cycle of large projects. If only the actual editor was … well … vim (although I believe there is actually a plugin for it).

    Reply to comment

  13. Posted by Taylor | March 2, 2008, 3:03 pm

    The other factor working agaisnt Microsoft in this case is the fact that many college students use On Demand Software nowadays veruse standalone licensed solutions.

    Reply to comment

  14. Posted by Jim | March 4, 2008, 11:08 am

    I guess the sceptics would say this has only been done as a method of marketing to the next generation, I personally would like to think it has been done for the right reasons.

    Reply to comment

  15. Posted by James | March 5, 2008, 4:49 pm

    I guess I’m a skeptic because I would say this certainly is a method of marketing! After all it’s the students who will later in life will be buying the software suites for their companies, if they are familiar with Visual Studio they may want to keep using it. Having said that I certainly never complained about getting anything free from Microsoft when i was a student and it hasn’t stopped me becoming a big believer in Open Source!

    Reply to comment

  16. Posted by blunt SEO link | March 12, 2008, 9:35 pm

    Look at the package! (Expression Studio, Visual Studio 2008, Windows Server)

    They want to have a strong foot in the web application & development. When Apache webserver percentage approaching 75% against IIS (less than 20%) in 2005, I use to think Microsoft will be dead within a couple of years in the web apps arena.

    I (and all MS basher) was proved wrong again. Now IIS steadily approaching 50% of the webserver market, thumping down Apache share! (their other main tactic is to deal with godaddy to use IIS as the server for internet domain name)

    These Microsoft guys really understand business! Capture the young generation and you will get the business!

    Reply to comment

  17. Posted by Tony | March 13, 2008, 11:56 pm

    If Microsoft wants to be taken seriously in the web apps arena, they need to stop releasing products that make developers hate their job. It was a huge step for them to reverse their decision regarding IE8’s default rendering choices. Though as it stands, IE5.5 is the best Internet Explorer browser to perform on Acid3.

    It’s developers who decide what technology wins, and there are two ways to get developers on your side — release actually good products, or, I suppose, get them hooked while they are still young.

    Reply to comment

  18. Posted by Web Proxy | March 16, 2008, 1:17 am

    Wow finally! It’s good that they lower their prices especially towards students. For example I was studying graphics design during my school days and adobe photoshop cost easily above 1k. As a student how could I be able to spend 1k on a software which I would be needing in school.

    If Microsoft did not release cheaper packages for students, I believe piracy will increase thus it’s a good move there by Microsoft.

    Reply to comment

  19. Posted by Tony | March 17, 2008, 9:38 am

    I think Microsoft would love for students to pirate their software. After all, it’s mostly targeted towards corporate professionals.

    Reply to comment

  20. Posted by Carl Martens | April 9, 2008, 8:42 am

    This is very cool. I work with a lot of freelance programmers and web designers and the attitude towards Microsoft isn’t always the greatest. It is about time that Microsoft does something like this to promote itself, but more importantly to provide the software for free to promote education, something far greater than promoting oneself. Bravo!

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