Microsoft, in an effort to gain market share amongst young companies, has announced an ambitious program that would allow certain startups to utilize their server software for free. BizSpark is the name of the new project that will, as Microsoft hopes, encourage start-ups to employ Windows-powered servers in their product offering.
To be eligible for the BizSpark program, a private company must be in business for no more than three years, have less than $1 million in annual revenue and must be referred by one of Microsoft's partners.
In today's start-up world, open source software such as web programming language PHP, database software MySQL and Linux are attractive because they can be used free of charge and without having to purchase any licenses. In many cases, running Microsoft software doesn’t even enter the minds of those building solutions in a start-up environment. Microsoft hopes to change this mentality by offering free products such as Visual Studio, Windows Server, SQL Server and SharePoint to companies who are just starting out and getting their footing financially.
In our opinion, this is a wise move by Microsoft. The .Net programming model has been in existence long enough that it has a garnered a substantially sized developer community. This, combined with .Net's ability to scale as a company's needs and web service audience grows make the Microsoft stack attractive to entrepreneurs who are building web services.
To urge adoption of their products, some web application platform companies offer a ‘free’ version in hopes customers will upgrade to paid versions as the need grows. Examples include Six Apart, makers of Movable Type blogging platform, Sun Microsystems, which offer versions of the Solaris Operating System free of charge, and Jive Software, who allows for a small version of their ClearSpace product to be used by small team.
As a result of BizSpark, Microsoft will undoubtedly gain market share by reaching out to the startup crowd in this manner.