Major software, too- Visual Studio 2008 Professional, XNA Game Studio, Microsoft Expression Studio, Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, SQL Server Developer Edition, and so on, as well as Microsoft VirtualPC (which of course is free for everyone). They claim that the program will expand to incorporate new tools as those tools are released (Windows Server 2008, etc).
Many technical news commentators have, like most of Microsoft’s latest moves (especially towards interoperability) panned the DreamSpark program. There is a lot of sentiment in the development world, especially the professional development world that Microsoft as a corporation engages in unreasonable, unfair, and in many cases, distinctly harmful business practices- and that this is only an extension of those practices. Specifically, they argue, the DreamSpark program encourages students to use Microsoft software, to accord to Microsoft practices and measures, and will therefore ‘lock them in’ to Microsoft technologies (which they will have to buy if they are going to release them commercially).
As a rule, I don’t agree with this view. I do believe that some of Microsoft’s policies are negative for the industry as a whole; I specifically reference the SMB/Samba debacle, where Microsoft’s extensions to the Server Message Block standard were, it is accused, specifically made a ‘moving target’ so as to make it more complicated and difficult for the Samba open-source group to re-implement it as free software. While it might be good business practice, I don’t know, it’s certainly not particularly good for interoperability. However, as a general rule, I do support Microsoft. I use Microsoft Windows. I use Microsoft Office. Both pieces of software, like any software, has flaws. However, both pieces of software have served me effectively and relatively well. I often find Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office to be better, for me, than their Open-Source equivalents.
In that respect, I fully support this movement by Microsoft. The release of these tools opens the opportunities available to students, and I can only support that. Furthermore, I expect that I will get my hands on these tools because they’re now available for my own interest.
If you’re eligible, check it out; you might find it interesting.