Students can has free Microsoft dev software.
O rly? Ya rly.

Microsoft DreamSpeakNo other company comes to mind that treats students as well as Microsoft. You only need to look at initiatives such MSDN Academic Alliance – where students can obtain Microsoft software for free for non-commercial use, and The Ultimate Steal (It’s Not Cheating) – the $60 Office 2007 Ultimate offer for students to appreciate their generosity. Others like Adobe and Apple offer marginal discounts for academics, but nothing close to these.

Today, Microsoft’s evangelism team has announced a new offer called “DreamSpark” where all post-secondary students from any specialization can acquire a range of professional-edition development and design software from Microsoft at a cost of only a few clicks and minutes. The catch is that students will need to verify their identity at their institutions and not all institutions have an identity system set up, but that’s only a matter of time before they should and would.

Whilst there might seem like an overlap between DreamSpark and MSDNAA, the difference is that MSDNAA requires involvement from the school and it also costs them money I believe. This offer, whilst still requires education providers to set up a system to verify identities of their students, allows students to go directly to Microsoft whether or not their schools are MSDNAA subscribers or not, which a surprisingly large number are not. MSDNAA also offers client operating systems where DreamSpark does not.

The range of softwares available currently include:

The offer is currently only available to institutions from Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom. and United States. If your country, like Australia, isn’t listed, it doesn’t mean it’s not available there, it just means no institutions have provided an identity verification system to Microsoft yet. If your school isn’t listed, start spamming your school’s IT department with the previous link.

Obviously Microsoft recognizes the ease of acquiring pirated software in a school environment and are taking innovative yet rational steps not to punish those who are acquiring Microsoft software as students, but providing them with alternative and cheaper methods of doing so that’s within the law. Of course, it also makes sense from a marketing point of view to get kids hooked on these drugs, I mean software, at an early age. As a student, kudos to them.

37 insightful thoughts

  1. It’s nice to see a company (software company) see that college students don’t in fact have a whole lot of money, yet need these programs to be successful in their studies. Never thought I’d say this, but Kudos to Microsoft

  2. Will this offer be available for middle school students?

    I am interested in developing and I am starting out with FSX addons and some small scripts and apps.

    Also, I have a friend that is in my school who is making a game in java. I would like to recommend this offer to him if this is availble to middle school students.

    -Orion

  3. @Orion: From what I understand it’s available to ANY educational institution including middle school. I’d probably even go as far as to say primary school, but I’m sure not many 8 year olds need to run SQL Server to keep track of their Pokemon cards just yet. It’s said to be only available to post-secondary schools.

  4. Why is my crappy school not registered for this yet? Damn San Jose State University. For a school in the middle of silicon valley, they are surprising out of the loop all the time…

  5. *Grin* Thanks for pointing this out, Long :) I shall check with the school admins tomorrow and see if I too am eligible for this excellent offer.

    Damn Microsoft rocks =D

  6. Hey, as I’ve just said to MJ, MSDNAA has everything we need – why do we need another fancy new named service which provides us with the some of the same and less? Yeh, MSDNAA costs the university, but it’s free for us. No UK student pays for MSDNAA, it’s just the university who pays. DreamSpark is free for the user and the university… but still, so what? This is a corporate thing between Microsoft and Uni’s, and actually has no affect on us students.

    Now other countries students may have to pay for MSDNAA, and another service providing basically free software to students is a great thing – there’s no doubt about it, and it’ll certainly cut down on piracy whilst on university campus’. It just doesn’t seem to excite me that much to be honest… the only thing that makes me smile is the design of the website and that’s it.

  7. Oh, and our University’s identity verification system isn’t working properly either… we’re registered (University of Kent, United Kingdom) but https://sid.kent.ac.uk/shibboleth-idp/ isn’t working.

    We’ve got bloody good systems here – we run the UK Mirror Service and have a supercomputer running underneath one of the buildings in a secure bunker (sounds a bit sci-fi), yet we can’t seem to get a bloody simple authentication server running. *sigh*

  8. @Zack Not every school can afford MSDNAA, not every student has access to the schools IT department as easily. For me, I’m an offcampus student due to disability, my Uni offered (last year) to send me the VS.NET install discs. VS.NET? Not even VS2003 or 2005?! DreamSpark will mean I can bypass (for the most part, heh) my uni’s incompetent IT department.

    @mrmckeb Australia is coming, don’t worry about that, and it should be this semester too, I believe.

  9. @Zack

    Sorry, but I can’t let slip what you are saying without commenting. YOU may find it easy to access MSDN-AA. YOU may be able to get everything there. YOU seem to be able to get your hands on free software.

    Now has it ever occured to you that some of us have a hard time even approaching MSDN-AA software? My uni department (Cambridge) is also subscribed to AA, but they blatanly refuse to give software to students, unless they are doctorate students, approved by a supervisor, and even then it’s tricky.

    AA is of NO use to us, despite the fact that I have devoted considerable amount of effort this year as MSP to try and get AA opened to my friends and students at uni.

    I’m very sorry if for YOU it doesn’t seem exciting, but for us (and we’re not the only ones) this is actually a big thing

  10. Too bad it’s not available where I live (Philippines). I guess I’m stuck with MSDNAA (I can only get software when there’s an event – and that’s only annually, unfortunately, not even sure about that) for now, until they add my university.

  11. @Long and Some Guy: The Birmingham Grid for Learning is listed which deals with primary, secondary and VI form education so it may indeed be possible for 8 year olds to download software. (Or maybe their parents could. Hmm.)

    However, it’s not actually working at the moment (typical). I have my username and password ready for when it is though.

  12. XNA Game Studio was, of course, already free.

    But does this mean Microsoft is giving away Creators’ Club subscriptions? (I could ask why they didn’t do that in the first place, given they’re trying to entice people into developing with their system and you can’t even PLAY the indie games on Xbox without one, but… maybe it’s a sign they’re, uh, warming up on that.)

    I agree with the assessment of some others that this is partly a defensive move — a lot of students are already hooked on Dev-C++, Xcode, Eclipse, Netbeans, et al, all of which are free. But Microsoft is more generous with students than any of their competitors, it’s true — and I think it’s a smart move.

  13. Umm, I’m a bit confused.

    If you read the Admin FAQ it states: “This benefit is available to all tertiary (post-secondary) students around the world who are attending accredited schools or universities”

    HOWEVER, in the students FAQ it states: “What are the student eligibility requirements to download and use the software available through DreamSpark?
    Pretty basic: to be eligible, all we ask is that you are a currently enrolled student attending an accredited university, college, junior college, community college, or a tertiary/higher education institution with digital student ID credentials”.

    These seem to be conflicting with each other :S

    Anyone know what the REAL eligibilty requirements are?

  14. Good point, Kieran. I think the deal is the digital certification is how MS avoids this costing them a lot of money — or lots of fake students stealing revenue from their software sales. You know, in a funny way this almost detracts from existing free tools Microsoft is pushing — the Express Editions and XNA — which are free to everyone, and, honestly, might be all you need anyway.

  15. @Peter

    From what I know… DS XNA Game Studio comes with a 12-month free subscription to CC:

    “XNA Creators Club 12-Month Trial Subscription – Coupled with XNA Game Studio 2.0, the XNA Creators Club 12-Month Trial Subscription opens up video game development to untapped creative minds, enabling anyone to affordably build and play their amazing game ideas on Xbox 360™ systems for the first time ever. The access key below grants access to a 12-month trial subscription that provides aspiring game developers the ability to develop games for their Xbox 360 without having to pay the $100 yearly subscription. “

  16. Thanks, Warren. Of course, it still doesn’t make any sense.

    Students can program for their Xbox 360, yes. But anyone wanting to *play those games* still needs the same $100/year subscription. (Fortunately, you can play them on the PC — but then the loser here, ironically, is the Xbox.)

    So, generous as Microsoft may be, they have to compete internally with the drive to squeeze revenue out of everything, and control everything — even if it means lost revenue, and (when people go with other development platforms) lost control.

    I’m still holding out hope that at some point, they’ll just say XNA on Xbox is free — use at your own risk.

  17. @Kieran
    We’re talking in US terms here.
    Guess what university are.
    Colleges are the working units of universities. Not anything below that.
    “Schools” does not refer to primary or secondary schools in this context. For example, The Harvard Business School is a higher education institution providing degrees in business related fields.
    Junior college is post-secondary school whose purpose is to provide vocational and professional education.
    Community college is roughly the same thing.
    They specify all of them since naming can be confusing in some institutions.
    In the UK and other countries, these terms may mean other things but the fact is Microsoft is only aiming for tertiary education.

  18. @Some guy

    I emailed Microsoft about this, and explained to them that I was a sixth form student in a UK Secondary SCHOOL. They verified my student status and I can now download the dreamspark downloads :)

    I can understand exactly what you are saying, it just seems Microsoft themselves don’t :P

  19. Erm, *sort of* fulfilled. They’re releasing seven games. So they *invite* you to create and share original games. Then they pick out a small handful.

    It’s really too bad, because there’s great stuff happening on the PC that wants to be on a console — any console. So if Microsoft can open Windows, why not Xbox? I can see them doing it before Nintendo or Sony.

  20. Interesting … not totally clear exactly how it’ll work, though:

    “An Xbox 360 community game created using Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio software and XNA Creators Club membership will be able to be submitted for distribution on Xbox LIVE. Each community-created game must then undergo a thorough peer-review process and be evaluated for accuracy in representation and appropriateness. Community game developers will be able to beta test the process this spring and will be able to distribute their games on Xbox LIVE by the end of this year.”

    But a step in the right direction.

  21. I’m sort of surprised nobody mentions that Microsoft’s motive here is to get you to spend your valuable time learning their technologies. It’s an odd thing to fall for when there is so much free software like GNU/Linux, Apache, Python, Perl, Php, and Mysql that can enable you to make some seriously cool things.

    Even though the software Microsoft is offering is free of cost, they do not let you modify the tools or study how they really work. Finally, it should be in all students interest to remove specific vendor and product names from their curriculum. You want to learn to think, to program, and to build things. Microsoft’s technologies are just one slice of the world of technology you will help build.

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