Microsoft DreamSpark provides Visual Studio and XNA bundle at no charge

Bill Gates unveils free development tools for students

Chairman of Microsoft Bill Gates will today unveil a new free software scheme for students that gives them development tools as is designed to ‘unlock their creative potential and set them on the path to academic and career success’.

Called Microsoft DreamSpark, the student program makes a range of development and design tools available for free. Microsoft said that software is available to 35 million students studying around the world in 10 countries (Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the US). More territories will be added throughout the year.

Gates will formally unveil the scheme at Standford University later today.

DreamSpark is available to all students whose studies touch on technology, design, math, science and engineering.

Specifically for game development, the developer tools available are Visual Studio 2005 Pro and Visual Studio 2008 Pro, plus XNA Game Studio 2.0. Students also get a free Acadamic membership for the XNA Creators Club. Microsoft said this move meant students would "be able to invent compelling new gaming content and make their dream game a reality by porting their creations to their Xbox 360 console".

Microsoft’s Expression Studio and platform resources SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition and Windows Server are also available for download.

"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."

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