Microsoft unveiled a new initiative on Monday that will give college and high school students around the world free access to technology tools used to develop and design software.
The company said the initiative will allow students to use Microsoft's developer and designer tools to write software applications, design elaborate Web pages or create new video games to run on the Xbox 360 console.
The development and design tools are available immediately to college students in the United States, Western Europe and China, but Microsoft said it will eventually extend the program to other countries and high school students, potentially reaching 1 billion students. The Microsoft DreamSpark student program (http://channel8.msdn.com) is available, at no charge.
"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. "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."
Using a broadband connection, students can download Visual Studio, Microsoft's main development tools used by professional developers, and Expression Studio, design software that rivals Adobe Systems Inc's (ADBE.O: Quote, Profile, Research) Creative Suite offering.
Gates said many designers opt for Adobe's design software because they are more familiar with it and the company could benefit if students become more comfortable working with Microsoft's design tools.
Microsoft said it will also make available XNA Game Studio software development tools for writing video games and a free one-year membership to the "XNA Creators Club" so they can bring those games to the Xbox 360 platform.
In the past, Microsoft has made development and design software available to students, but it was up to the universities to register for the program. As a result, most of the students who took advantage of the program tended to be computer science students at major universities.