I must be behind on this, but when did Microsoft release Visual Studio Express? It’s a free version of their Visual Studio, which includes Visual C++, Visual Basic, C#, etc. They’re vague on how it differs from the full blown version, but here’s their official description from the FAQ:
Express Edition products are designed for hobbyists, students, and novice developers. As such, they lack the full breadth of features found in higher-end Visual Studio and SQL Server Editions. They are designed specifically for scenarios common to the hobbyist, student, and novice developer. Each Express Edition includes targeted documentation that will help the beginning programmer quickly learn the concepts required to build more advanced applications. The user interfaces are significantly streamlined to ensure that extraneous features do not interfere with the learning process. If you later decide that you do need additional features available in the higher-end editions of Visual Studio and SQL Server, you can seamlessly upgrade your code and skills.
There are no licensing restrictions for applications built using the Express Editions.
You can seamlessly upgrade your skills? That’s a weird way of putting it. In any case, I agree with this guy who thinks this should ship with every copy of Windows.