Microsoft’s Tempting Offer to College Students
Microsoft has found a secret weapon in its battle against open source. The software giant will soon give college students free access to its software development tools. Assuming there are no strings attached, it’s a smart move by Microsoft. But it’s hardly unique.
The future of software development and the IT industry, after all, often unfolds first on college campuses. Think about it: Mobile devices, WiFi networks, multi-user gaming, social networks and dozens of other IT developments first gained popularity on university campuses before moving into the consumer and corporate markets.
Microsoft and the open source industry are locked in war to win the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s software developers. In one trench sits Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. In an opposing trench are companies like IBM, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems. Both sides have one goal in mind: Get today’s students trained on your software development tools, and you have a much better shot at dominating tomorrow’s corporate IT landscape.
At least, that’s the theory. And The VAR Guy tends to agree with it.
So what’s Microsoft’s strategy? At recent Stanford University discussion, Bill Gates disclosed that Microsoft planned to launch DreamSpark, which will give college students free access to Visual Studio Professional Edition, XNA Game Studio, Expression Studio, SQL Server and Windows Server.
Smart move, Microsoft. But you’ll continue to face intense competition on college campuses. Red Hat has a longstanding University Program that exposes students to open source solutions. IBM has similar programs under way as does Sun Microsystems.
While promising, all of these initiatives also have some drawbacks. Some educators have complained that straining students on specific vendor platforms reduces their creativity and locks them into “vendor-think.” For instance, K-12 and university students often are instructed to build presentations using Microsoft PowerPoint — even if other formats or approaches might be wiser.
Still, free access to software development tools could give students freedom of choice as they weigh their long-term career goals.
Oh, and it’s time to give credit where credit is due. The VAR Guy first spotted details about DreamSpark over on SeekingAlpha, one of his favorite financial blog sites.