In separate initiatives, Microsoft will make its Express developer tools for beginners free permanently while IBM is seeking to boost computer science skills among high school students.
Citing 5 million downloads since November, Microsoft has cancelled plans to begin charging for its Visual Studio 2005 Express products, which feature abbreviated developer tools for hobbyists, beginners, and students. The plan had been to price the products at $49 beginning in November 2006. Thus far, they have been available at no charge.
"The big announcement is our continued investment in the next-generation developers and these do-it-yourself beginners, hobbyists, and students," said Dan Fernandez, lead product manager for Visual Studio 2005 Express.
Microsoft offers versions of Visual Studio 2005 Express focused on Visual Basic, C#, C++, and J# (pronounced J-sharp and featuring the Java syntax on the .Net Framework). A version tuned for Web developers also is available, as is a starter kit for building storefronts hosted on eBay.
The Express tools enable developers to familiarize themselves with Microsoft developer technologies.
"There is certainly a set of people who are looking to become professional developers at some stage," Fernandez said.
The Express offerings can be downloaded here.
IBM, meanwhile, is collaborating with the Computer Science Teachers Association to accelerate computer science and technology skills among high school students. The two organizations will provide a network of 36,000 teachers with free access to computer science curricula to boost expertise and help students acquire skills for 21st century jobs, according to IBM and the association.
Basic programming and Web design are featured in the curricula. Resources can be downloaded here.