Microsoft Corp. is giving students free access to its most sophisticated tools for writing software and making media-rich web sites, a move that intensifies its competition with Adobe Systems Inc. and could challenge the popularity of open-source software.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker said it would allow students to download Visual Studio Professional Edition, a software development environment; Expression Studio, which includes graphic design, web site, and hybrid web-desktop programming tools; and XNA Game Studio 2.0, a video game development program.

The company also will give away SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition...

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