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Microsoft plans software tools for students

The company plans software development tools aimed at college-level computer science students to cultivate a new wave of software programmers loyal to its technology.

Microsoft hopes to recruit a new wave of developers loyal to its technology from colleges and universities.

The software maker plans to ship software development tools aimed at college-level computer science students, a move the company hopes will result in a new wave of software programmers loyal to its technology.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced plans to ship by year's end a version of its forthcoming Visual Studio.Net tools with features specifically targeted to educational use. Visual Studio.Net is the new version of Microsoft's development tools that will allow people to write and build Web-based software and services.

The tools are part of Microsoft's .Net strategy to transform its Windows operating system and existing software into a "software as a service" for delivering information over the Web to PCs, handheld computers and other devices. The software maker previously announced three versions of the new tools aimed at the corporate market.

By making a specific version for students and offering steep discounts for schools, Microsoft hopes to raise a new generation of developers accustomed to using its tools and languages to create software programs. Microsoft is battling for talent with Sun Microsystems, IBM, Oracle, BEA Systems and others that support the Java programming language.

Microsoft executives said new features in Visual Studio.Net Academic will include Web-based software that will provide an area online where faculty and students can communicate. For example, professors could put class assignments for students online. The class, in turn, could download the assignments, complete them, and upload them to Web-based servers, giving professors easy access to their work.

The product, available by year's end, will also include several wizards--which make it easier for developers to build applications by guiding them through the development process--as well as sample software code.

The package of tools in Visual Studio.Net includes updates to programming languages Visual Basic, Visual C++, and the first version of C#, a new software-programming language and Microsoft's answer to Java, intended to simplify the building of Web-based software.