Microsoft extends life of Visual Studio freebie

Microsoft is making its Visual Studio Express tool free permanently for developers.

Microsoft Wednesday said that an entry-level edition of its Visual Studio tools will remain free and available for use without restrictions for developers.

Microsoft initially offered Visual Studio Express, launched last November, free for a year. The company decided to make the tool free permanently because of the "incredibly positive response" from both hobbyists and students who like having easy and free access to the tool, Microsoft said in an e-mail statement.

Microsoft has traditionally tried to foster a strong ecosystem around its developer tools.

There are five versions of Visual Studio Express: Visual Web Developer Express, Visual Basic Express, Visual C# Express, Visual C++ Express and Visual J# Express. Microsoft also launched a free, entry-level version of its database, SQL Server Express, at the same time it released Visual Studio Express.

Microsoft Wednesday said it has worked with partners to create add-ons to Visual Studio Express to lure both young developers that are just learning how to code and hobbyist developers that code for fun at home.

For example, working with the toy company The Lego Group, Microsoft created an application that allows people with Lego Mindstorms robots to use Visual Studio Express to program the robots to do specific commands, such as maneuver around obstacles or be controlled from a keyboard or a mouse, the company said.

EBay also is providing a Visual Studio Web Developer Express starter kit with prebuilt technology and templates for helping developers quickly build applications for the auction site, Microsoft said.

Both Visual Studio Express and SQL Server Express will be on display at Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, on Saturday and Sunday. Hosted by O'Reilly Media's Make Magazine, the fair is aimed at building and encouraging a grassroots community of hobbyist and student inventors and technology developers.

The Visual Studio 2005 Express editions are available for download Wednesday from the Microsoft Developer Network at http://msdn.microsoft.com/express.

More information on Maker Faire as well as technology and resources for hobbyist and student developers is available on Microsoft's Coding4Fun Web site at http://msdn.microsoft.com/coding4fun.

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