Microsoft unveils development tools for academia

In a bid to foster better ties with institutions of higher learning, Microsoft Corp. Wednesday unveiled a set of development tools targeted at the academic and research community.

Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, made the announcement from Microsoft's Research Faculty Summit, held at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington. About 300 representatives from colleges, universities and research institutions from around the world attended the two-day gathering, which began Monday, officials said.

"We hope to see a large uptake in .NET and C#," said Dennis Crain, product manager for Visual Studio.NET Academic. Crain said three universities have already begun offering courses that focused on .NET, Microsoft's year-old platform initiative.

Visual Studio.NET Academic includes Microsoft's C# (pronounced C-sharp) development language, Visual Basic.NET, C++, ASP.NET, .NET framework and the Common Language Runtime. The tool also features course management tools, which allows instructors to create application development assignments and review the compiled student code for that assignment.

"The students were having a hard time coming up to speed on [Microsoft technologies] because they were given the tools and told to develop, and that was about it," Crain said. Visual Studio.NET Academic includes better "documentation to walk through elementary code assignments," he said.

The product will ship with the .NET framework, which is slated to be available this fall. Pricing is US$799 for an annual subscription per department. Those license terms include unlimited use for students and in labs for instructional purposes. Attendees at today's conference will receive Visual Studio.NET Academic Beta 2.

In May, Microsoft released two new versions of its Visual Studio.NET tools aimed at easing the task of designing and creating applications that support Web services.

Visual Studio.NET Enterprise Architect provides conceptual, logical and physical modeling tools for mapping out the business requirements of .NET applications. Visual Studio.NET Enterprise Develop contains frameworks and templates for creating .NET applications, as well as a version control and data management utility.

Microsoft also said today that it's making available about 10 percent of the Windows CE 3.0, Microsoft's embedded operating system, source code under a shared source license. Windows CE 3.0 shipped in June of last year, and the next version, code-named Talisker, is slated to ship in the first half of next year. Under the share source license, developers can take a look at the source code and make changes, as long as those changes aren't used in a commercial product.

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