RealTime IT News

Microsoft Woos Academic World

Continuing efforts to woo academia, Microsoft Thursday said it will release Visual Studio .NET 2003 Academic Edition to U.S. schools in conjunction with professional versions of the development environment. Additionally, the source code for a number of environment's components will be made available under Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative through an Academic Tools Source License.

The company also announced the 25 recipients of its 2003 Microsoft Research (MSR) University Relations Innovation Excellence research grants. Microsoft selected the 25 recipients from 152 submissions, and will award $3.5 million to the chosen projects.

The open source community has made tremendous strides in the halls of academia, where a platform like Linux has great appeal for students because it is free and it can be taken apart and examined. This has the potential to become a big problem for a company like Microsoft, which is generally regarded with antipathy by the open source community for its perceived ruthless business practices and the jealous guarding of its secrets -- a practice that is at loggerheads with a culture that has grown up with the mantra "information needs to be free."

A future in which generations of young programmers are brought into the Linux fold and not trained to utilize Microsoft platforms could be a disaster for the company. To combat this problem, Microsoft created the Shared Source Initiative, a program which gives access to the Windows source code to certain customers, partners, developers and academics.

"Today's announcements are about working with academia to foster innovation and help students and professors be successful," said Eric Rudder, senior vice president for the Developer and Platform Evangelism Division at Microsoft. "Academic developers are defining the future at educational institutions around the world. Our mission is to make our software and programs so easily accessible that students and educators are limited only by their own imaginations."

With the new Academic Edition, and the Shared Source Common Language Infrastructure (CLI), also known as 'Rotor' -- which offers up the core source code of the .NET Framework -- Microsoft aims to give students and educators a look under the hood of its environment and allows them to use multiple programming languages, including Eiffel, Scheme, C# and Java to learn their craft.

"The Shared Source Initiative, and particularly 'Rotor,' is vital in helping us achieve the learning objectives of our .NET MSc Distributed Systems Development graduate program," said David Grey, professor of computer science at University of Hull in England. "We strongly believe that providing our students with the inner workings of the .NET Framework and the Shared Source CLI as part of this degree program will give them a significant edge in research and in expertise needed to excel in the areas of Web services and mobile and distributed computing."

Visual Studio .NET 2003 Academic Edition will be available through subscription to the MSDN Academic Alliance program, which computer science departments can join for $799.

The Visual Studio .NET Academic Tools Source Licensing Program will become available through the Shared Source Initiative in summer 2003, providing access to the source code for Assignment Manager Server, Assignment Manager Faculty Client and Assignment Manager Student Client. The program will allow professors, students, academic researchers and independent developers to use, modify and redistribute the licensed source code of the Assignment Manager for both commercial and non-commercial purposes, including the creation and distribution of derivatives for non-Windows-based applications.