Microsoft is to offer free software development and designer tools to university and school students around the world in a bid to stave off the advances made by Linux and other open source software in education markets.
The DreamSpark student programme is now available to more than 35 million college students in the UK, Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the US.
Microsoft said that the initiative will be expanded over the coming 12 months to reach a potential one billion students worldwide.
"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 catalyse economic growth," said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.
"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."
The programme will offer Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition, Expression Studio, XNA Game Studio 2.0, SQL Server Developer Edition, Windows Server Standard Edition plus other software and resources.
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