At a talk tomorrow at Stanford University, Bill Gates will announce that they are making much of their developer software free to college and university students. The program, called Microsoft DreamSpark, will be run by Joe Wilson, Senior Director of Academic Initiatives.
Covered software includes Visual Studio Professional Edition, XNA Game Studio, Expression Studio, SQL Server and Windows Server. Students were previously able to license this software at greatly reduced prices, or got access via their CS department at school (or through other, less legal, means). Now they’ll be able to get the software for free.
Only students in Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. will have access for now, other countries, and pre-college students, will be added later this year. Microsoft requires verification that you are an actual student – in the U.S. they are partnering with Journeyed, who maintains a database of students.
This is a smart (and obvious) move for Microsoft, who needs to get as many students as possible comfortable working on their platforms. It also signals that they recognize they have real competition (including open source alternatives) when it comes to IDEs and other developer tools.