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Microsoft Targets Next Generation With .Net Academic

The software maker hopes new tools and low prices will convert comp sci students to the .Net platform.

Microsoft on Thursday released a specially priced academic version of its Visual Studio .Net software, adding extra tools for computer science students in a bid to produce a new batch of .Net-friendly programmers.

"We are very interested in getting the next generation of developers to come out of academia to understand .Net," says Michael Bronsdon, lead product manager for Microsoft's academic developer marketing. "This shows how big our investment in .Net technologies is and that we're committed to academia to ensure that there will be technologists to build for them."

Visual Studio .Net Academic contains the same set of software tools available in the professional version of Visual Studio .Net, a development suite for writing applications to run over the Internet, which was released in mid-February. The academic version adds wizards, templates, and documentation for students as well as an assignment publishing toolset, grade manager, and code-extraction tool for creating interactive software-coding tests. The package will be sold to students for $99, and universities can obtain a $799 departmentwide yearly subscription.

"It's an interesting move, but not all that surprising as Microsoft has watched with alarm as Java has become the de facto programming platform at universities," Summit Strategies analyst Dwight Davis says. The education market has become a "significant battleground" for the company, which hopes to prop up support for .Net by winning over converts before they reach the professional world, he says. "Microsoft can't afford to ignore that future crop of programmers."

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