If you spend your days developing web applications and websites based on Microsoft technologies you may have an opportunity to get some free software and some free marketing. Microsoft has announced its WebsiteSpark program.

A Program for Developers

Similar to DreamSpark, a program for students, and BizSpark, a program for entrepreneurs, WebsiteSpark is designed to support individual web developers and designers, or companies with fewer than 10 employees with their business development activities and a few years of few software to boot.

According to the program's website, there are three things you get as part of this program:

  1. Free software, including server licenses like Windows Web Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 Web, and software like Visual Studio 2008, Expressions Studio and Expressions Web
  2. Free Training and Support from Microsoft and its partners (agencies, incubators, developers, and designers).
  3. Marketplace to meet potential customer and market their services

This is a three year program during which you get lots of free software and marketing. At the end of the three years, you only pay US$ 100. After three years, you can continue using the software at special rates.

The rules for applying seem fairly simple: be a developer of solutions for other people and have less than 10 people in your company. Interested? Sign up here.

Going After Larger Chunk of Web

Now this is a good offer from Microsoft to help smaller companies use their technologies for web development. And for a company who is not known to be helpful to its development teams as much as it is to enterprises, it's a welcome change.

There is a general buzz that this program is an attempt by Microsoft to counter a growing threat from open source. As Matt Asay says the LAMP stack is the proven winner for web development in terms of both scalability and developer options.

According to Matt Asay, "But the Web is built on open source. Microsoft is playing catch-up in this market, and it's simply not going to be enough to wave great tools in front of developers for a low fee."

Learning Opportunities

He also points out that most of the smaller shops that Microsoft is targeting with this program probably don't plan to be small forever. So while now the Microsoft stack works fine, when it comes time to scale out for larger development and implementation projects, the costs start to rise and may not make as much sense.

Where the SharePoint Training and Software?

Still, there is a growing population of Microsoft developers and an even larger demand when it comes to SharePoint development. It may not be larger than the demand for open source developers, but it's a huge market.

What this program should have is some software and training opportunities for SharePoint. Maybe the next program that comes out will be called ShareSpark. Bet you'll see a long list of registrants for a program like that.