VS Express Editions Orcas CTP Available
Microsoft started offering free versions of Visual Studio in 2005. Prior to that, the last free IDE Microsoft offered was back in the DOS days with QBasic, a subset of the QuckBasic IDE.
For presentation technologies, both WinForms and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) are currently offered in C# and VB. While this does increase the download size, both technologies have compelling reasons to be included. Another issue is the potential confusion for new users caused by including both technologies.
With database technologies, the debate is between SQL Server Express and SQL Compact Edition. The latter is expected to much easier to learn, but the former is already in use by developers using VS 2005. Currently they are leaning towards including support for both in VS Express for VB and C#. C++ and Visual Web Designer will only have support for SQL Server Express.
Microsoft is looking for developer input on which technologies to support.