It’s fair to say most people are a little reserved and somewhat suspicious when Microsoft (of all people) offer something for “free”. There must be a catch, a hidden something, an underlying reason… well in this case there isn’t, not one that I can see anyway.
Microsoft DreamSpark, for those who don’t know, is a free download service available from the Microsoft student blog Channel8. It authenticates users with your university email address and allows you to download and use for free such beauties as Windows Server 2003, Visual Studio 2008 Professional and the much awaited XNA Game Studio, for budding game developers.
When my friend Long covered this story, it made me think that this was pointless as most educational establishments around the world have MSDNAA which provides an even larger range of software for “free”. I may have been a little wrong, and even got some much deserved flak for this; MSDNAA isn’t free but it’s still cheaper than buying the software, and sometimes your university pays for this anyway.
There is still mixed feeling about DreamSpark; whether it could provide more than it does, whether the offerings are too biased to their own company, and whether this discourages open-source creativity. Some believe DreamSpark is a god-send and some truly believe that open-source has become the more philanthropic option and Microsoft is being “stingy”.
When Mary-Jo asked me about this when it came out, I literally fell on the floor laughing at such a lame attempt to make Microsoft look like the deeply caring people that they want us to think. She wrote:
“[DreamSpark] look more like a defensive move than an entirely philanthropic one.”
Admittedly, Visual Studio (a Professional version no less) is useful to have for free, but at least crank open up the more “needed” software. Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 and the full Expression suite (not just one poxy version) would significantly increase the popularity of DreamSpark I’m sure, as these are what the students truly need – not Virtual PC which can be downloaded from Microsoft Download Center anyway.
I’d like to hear what you think of DreamSpark, whether it has merits or drawbacks. Maybe it’s my British cynicism or my student-rebellion fuelled ways, it’ll be interesting to open this up for questions from the students themselves.