back to article Ballmer gives Norwegian students free love

Microsoft believes it has "lost" a generation of developers who might have embraced Windows and .NET, thanks to the Mac and open source frameworks and operating systems. In an ongoing attempt to woo the next generation Microsoft's rumbustious chief executive will next week announce the latest extension of a program offering …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    same s...

    free microsoft is still microsoft...

  2. Solomon Grundy

    A Generation? Or a Sub-Set

    Come on now man. MS hasn't lost a generation of developers. They may have "lost" some people to some of the tertiary offerings out there but it's not a lot of people when compared to the mainstream MS development offerings. Fewer people develop in OSS environments on non MS products than use Firefox; and that's a pretty small number.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It won't help...

    I had access as an undergraduate to the Microsoft Academic Alliance software, which pretty much includes everything except Office. It didn't help sway me toward Microsoft-based development though - I still use "the best tools for the job", which does not always mean Microsoft.

  4. skeptical i

    first hit's always free ...

    and if enough students get proficient in using these various MS-wares, that might push future employers to purchase them -- at least, that was a strategy used by a graphic/ illo proggie whose name I've long forgotten. Or, if not, putting free MS stuff into students' hands will keep marketshare from other stuff; if you can not bring customers to you, at least deny them reason to go to competitors.

    Any ideas why MS chose Norway as the beneficiary of this gift? Close enough to Finland to lob shots across Linus' bow? (If a BOFH is "from hell", is a boffin "from Finland"?)

  5. Steve Sherlock

    Yeah right....

    Because Scandinavians really have trouble getting hold of free MS stuff as it is!

  6. Kevin Bailey

    Doesn't change much...

    ...cos most of this stuff gets passed around between students anyway - obviously MS do not put product activation on Visual Studio - they're desparate to continue to get developers using their stuff.

    Their plan has always been to get developers to create Windows apps so's that they can continue to fleece PC buyers.

    The problem for MS is that application developers have changed from client applications to web based apps like bison thundering over the plain. And when you've used both .NET and the best of breed open source technologies it soon becomes apparent which is best.

    After 10 months of .NET I was close to despair. It's such a confusing bloated mess of dependencies and weird installation problems.

    The difference with the really clean Zend Framwork is this:

    We can get things done for the clients which they can use. And it's the clients who pay the bills.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Re: first hit's always free ...

    The first and any subsequent hit of delicious pies on Ballmer will almost certainly be part of a free of charge public service.

  8. John Bailey
    Gates Horns


    Nothing to do with Open Source getting a bit more exposure by EU governments then..

  9. Charles Manning

    Better free compilers

    gcc and friends, fer instance. Runs on a wide variety of hosts, compiles for just about any CPU ever designed. Free for always, not just your first


    With MS you can run code on x86, ARM, SH3 and MIPS.... until they choose to drop a CPU (like they did with PowerPC).

  10. Telic
    Gates Horns

    'Free' Meal Deals

    Déjà vu.

    Again, Microsoft uses drug-lord tactics to pursue their next generation of addicts.

    Bill Gates has boasted about how those free (and pirated) products can effectively lock students and developing markets into Microsoft's proprietary tools and formats: "As long as they are going to 'steal' it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."

    As noted by Con Zymaris, CEO of Cybersource, "This strategy is even more insidious, as Microsoft is expecting governments to pay for the hardware, thus paving the way for Microsoft to snare its next billion addicts in a friction-free manner.

    "What is equally apparent is that Microsoft would prefer to lose money initially, to prevent competitors from capturing mindshare."

    Review the Cybersource press release (2007) about Microsoft "free" meal-deals for students...

  11. Henry Wertz Gold badge
    Paris Hilton

    what will they run it on?

    what will these "lost souls" run this free software on? Windows is not on the list, and the free software advocates i know do not run windows, period. Does it run under wine?

  12. yeah, right.


    ACM has just announced a similar program for all its student members.

    Wouldn't touch it with a bargepole, but it's there.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    witty title

    "...Microsoft's rumbustious chief executive will next week announce the latest extension of a program offering Microsoft software worth thousands of dollars at a price point no student can refuse: free...."

    i beg to differ. i would need to be paid to use microsoft's junk. so free is still far too expensive

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    No, probably not, they have been doing this for years and opensource aint a problem..

  15. Yfrwlf

    Of course it's free

    SDKs usually are, they want you developing for their platform. Any way, we've heard it all before and know it well, the young are huge targets for companies, the business tactic being give it away free or almost free so that a dependence forms later in life, like drugs as Telic pointed out. But of course they don't make those free options available later on, so they form exclusivity agreements with educational institutions, making the cheap price only available to them and no one else. It's a shame this card hasn't been forceably removed from their hand as having to make a product and it's price available to everyone and barring exclusivity deals as anti-competitive would give MS a huge blow while giving competition a huge boost.

    ...and all governments should care about more competition for their consumers. That is, if their governments truly are for their citizens.

  16. Martin Edwards

    Express Editions

    The Visual Studio Express Editions are free anyway, and contain more than enough of the full feature set for most student developers.

  17. tempemeaty

    MS, dependency and the manipulated...

    Crack dealers also give the first dose away for free. How else do they get you hooked. Then by your dependency you are manipulated and they own you.

  18. J

    I wonder why...

    I wonder why they are this desperate... Eh? Eh?

    (I refuse to use the horrible new penguin icon, it looks like a Playmobil version of Tux! Not that you care, but I thought I'd say it anyway)

  19. Kenny Swan


    @Steve Sherlock

    You're exaclty right. Anyone who wants to learn those languages and technologies using the expensive IDEs and can't afford it can just take a hop, skip and jump to some places on the internet and get it, and more, for free anyway. And forgive me if I'm wrong, but don't they offer the express editions of the visual studio components for students for free anyway?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Using MS Dweeb tools

    There is always that niggling feeling of inadequacy, as if there is a better way to do this, a more fun way to do this, a more logical way of doing this, a faster way of doing this.

    And that feeling of inadequacy is valid, there are better ways, but until the dweeb finds them they will not graduate from dweeb to developer.

    It is not so much a generation of lost developers, but a generation of clueless dweebs that MS created with their little sojourn into dweeb tools. Remember that MS is about sugar coating a computer system to the point they turn it into a trivial toy, I don't think you can call yourself a software developer if your main platform is MS dweeb tools, well not with a straight face anyhow. It is like calling yourself an F1 driver and tootling around in a Skoda.

  21. /dev/me

    Is Ballmer dodging EU regulations?

    "Nothing to do with Open Source getting a bit more exposure by EU governments then.."

    Interesting, yes? Norway isn't part of the EU.

    Linux, because Norwegian students can get that for free as well.

  22. yeah, right.


    Association for Computing Machinery just ponied up a similar plan for all its student members, so it's not just in Scandinavia. See

    I know it's an offer I certainly won't be touching, but I'm guessing they'll snare more than a few in this particular trapline.

    I wonder if perhaps, just perhaps they're getting a little desperate that people are starting to realize just how crap their overpriced garbage really is? I can only hope!

  23. Andrew Moore
    Gates Horns


    I see the world "PEST" displayed rather prominently below Ballmer

  24. John O'Hare

    For free only?

    I would have expected them to already start PAYING developers to use their tools. They must actually be feeling the pressure from OSS tools then.

    That's the beauty of using OSS tools; even if you develop on a windows platform now, it's easy to switch to another platform with little or no hassle. So instead of being a skilled 'windows developer' using tools that only work on windows, developing window based apps, you actually add value to your skill set beyond just the MS platform.

    Wouldn't want to waste disk space downloading their proprietary tools, even if they were paying me to download it.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Get 'em hooked

    Like dealers giving a free hit to kids, or cigarette companies selling single cigarettes in Africa.

    Get them started young and you'll have them for life, regardless of the health hazards or how expensive it is to maintain the habit.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    The thing is that

    Our college promoted the 'DreamSpark' software in our school, until someone (me) pointed out that the college needed to provide authentication. That killed the idea stone dead for all of the students.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The UK has had access to this for ages - Server 2008 is supposedly 'coming soon'

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    Its free

    I use it, cause its free! Sure, Visual Studio 2008 may be the jewel in the crown, but the expressions studio is pretty nice software aswell. Soon Vista server is going up, but I'll avoid that, and it generally has a fair bit of nice software that will help students learn.

    Because all students can get hold of exactly the same software, without having to pay hundreds of pounds, it makes teaching them that little bit easier, my college still uses Borland C++ to teach the students C, the only way we can get hold of that is for one of the friendly students to let us "borrow" his CD, not really a good learning environment.

    On the bright side, we don't use Mac's, so at least we're not stuck with a sucky excuse for a computer.

  29. James
    Gates Horns

    Empty gesture, nothing new

    They've been doing this for many years - I remember getting Visual Studio 6 (complete with NT 4 Server, SQL Server and the other bits) as a student (here in the UK) along with a beta of Visual Studio .Net, back when those were the latest versions out there.

    Did it work? Well, in addition to Linux and Solaris hosted websites I do develop software for Windows (and the Mac) ... in Java. That would be a no, then.

    Right now, I can just grab the developer tools for most of the common platforms and languages with nothing more than a web search or two. The biggest difference, from my perspective, is that if I want anything more than the most basic tools for Microsoft's platforms, I either have to go to dodgy sites or extract a pile of cash from someone first - for other platforms, it's a straightforward download. No messing around with Crippled Edition with Bits Missing, product keys etc.

    Even Microsoft themselves ended up posting what amounts to a "crack" for the free Express Edition, since they had gone too far in crippling it before release!

    With programs like this, the free 'Express Edition', giving small software companies five licenses for MSDN Universal for £200/yr etc, it's obvious MS can see there's a problem here - the question is, are they prepared to go far enough to deal with it? So far: no.

  30. chuBb.

    Differs from academic allience how?

    i got all of those apps listed for free (well the uni picked up the license i guess) when i was a student

    server 2k3 is usefull to have especially as god knows how many places use it, and chances are that the majority of graduating students first job will be windows centric., i mean why trust a newb with a proper server when all they know is windows, although i guess you could argue a larger majority of them will be familiar with ubuntu, but thats still substanitially different from redhat or suse. For an IDE vs2008 aint bad, pretty slick interface, and intellisense certainly is damn good at what it does, admitadly there is a lot of crap i personally will never use in it and its only good for .net, but its an IDE for .net so thats to be expected. Personally i find the competition to be playing enough of a catchup game with it to not bother in terms of interface. think open office vs office 2003, on paper they do the same thing, but the office 2003 interface just worked better. (ironically now i use OpenOffice in preferance to office2007 but thats a different story)

    Also dont forget the vast majority of students dont want to use there brains, there content with wizards and stuff, so telling them use eclipse, down load the <insert random extension name here>, and faff with the config till it works isnt an option. seriously in some of the java modules i took there were students who by the end of the module were struggling with command line compilation, and had to use jbuilder, never mind that the fact that they were single file programs with maybe a single library import, so unless file structure, and working with gui-less interfaces becomes part of their curriculum many of the 'better' alternatives havnt got a snowball in hells chance of uptake

    Also dont forget that uni's are tailoring there courses for what employers are looking for, OSS is still mostly comprised of hobby projects (and probably always will be) employers may be asking for 'experience with OSS' but that doesnt mean there ethos is OpenSource its more likely to be an economic one, wanting people to wrangle the code to there own ends, and being able to pick up a project written by someone else without reinventing the wheel. Besides its all well and good developers knowing that there is much better tools available, but unless you can get management to buy into the alternatives you will find the decision has been made for you and it will be one they feel most comfortable with, with a company/technology they have heard of M$. Even if you ignore the issues of managemnt, and the uni's tailoring there courses for employers, you cannot escape the fact that the majority of desktops will be windows based so the focus will always be on MS.

    personally for me i use notepad++ for everything apart from .net work, if MS wants to give its software to students so what its hardly an unfair advantage they are already trained in the ways of the BSOD, if the OSS world wanted to make a change it would target primary and secondary schools and get them young.

  31. The Other Steve

    @Kevin Bailey / @"ZOMG! Drug Lords!"

    @Kevin Bailey

    "obviously MS do not put product activation on Visual Studio"

    Oh but they do. It just isn't quite as harsh. As befits the differing EULA, which allows developers to install multiple instances on different machines just so long as they undertake not to run multiple instances simultaneously.

    Or at any rate, that's what the EULA said the last time I could be arsed to check if I was violating it in a professional capacity. And everything I've installed from VS 2003 upwards has phoned home to register at the end of the install process. Even the free versions of the 2k5 and 2k8 tools.

    "Their plan has always been to get developers to create Windows apps so's that they can continue to fleece PC buyers."

    I'm not sure that's entirely accurate, don't forget that MS also derive a substantial revenue from sales of development tools to the corporate market (although obviously nowhere near as much as from their OS sales) so MS' developer relations are probably also aimed at driving this revenue.

    I would also guess that this is the reason why you can get current versions of all the individual tools for free already (making this "giveaway" more of a PR stunt than anything else), but not the full "professional" or "enterprise" versions.

    @"ZOMG! Drug Lords!"

    While this allusion bears up to a certain extent, largely due to Chairman Bill's public displays of megalomanaical glee*, the only difference between MS and the "free" competition is the pay off.

    The hardcore FOSS crowd want you to buy into their ideology, so they give you free stuff, MS want your dollars, so they give you free stuff.

    So what's the difference ? We get to choose between extortion or brainwashing, if you choose frame it in such extreme terms. Or you could just not. You could just google "loss leader" and realise that MS' commercial activities vis a vis giving stuff away barely differ from those you might find in a well run corner shop. But knee jerk hysteria is _so_ much more fun, no ?

    *c.f Eric Raymond et al who are obviously fine examples of humble well adjusted types, who don't drool or rant or hold their beliefs with maniacal zeal in any way shape or form.

  32. N

    Lost a few generations

    After the way its treated its customers like shit and produced crappy products with its enhance, extend, exterminate policy to wring as much as possible by manipulating standards, its no surprise at all.

    The generations have probably left in droves & guess what? They wont come back in a hurry either.

  33. The Badger

    @The Other Steve

    "The hardcore FOSS crowd want you to buy into their ideology, so they give you free stuff, MS want your dollars, so they give you free stuff. So what's the difference ? We get to choose between extortion or brainwashing, if you choose frame it in such extreme terms."

    What nonsense! Nobody is asking for any ideological devotion when you download Free Software (to use the most ideologically loaded term of them all) - you can even produce proprietary software with Free Software developer tools. The only restrictions, when those tools are made available under a copyleft-style licence, are that you make the sources available when sharing the software with others. When did Microsoft last let anyone share the bulk of their software catalogue?

    It's pure distortion to label as "brainwashing" a particular choice of licensing on the part of developers, especially when it actually encourages awareness of software licensing amongst users so that they know that it isn't as simple as "I got it without paying anything from [the man/my mates/bloke down the pub] - delete where necessary". If anything the brainwashing comes from those organisations who indiscriminately label content redistribution as "piracy" and who would rather Free Software went away.

  34. Kevin Whitefoot


    All students studying any IT related subject in a Norwegian Technical High School (this is university level not A level) or university have had access to all the relevant MS tools for nothing for years. I studied C# by internet with Hist (Høyskole i Sør Trøndelag) several years ago and had access not only to the VS2005 cds but also full versions of XP.

    I still used SharpDevelop for most of the exercises.

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