Microsoft’s Got a Deal for Small Web Dev Firms

First it was students, then small startups. Now, it’s Web site developers.

Microsoft launched a program today that offers its Web development tools, training, and support to Web site design and Web application development firms with 10 or fewer employees. Cost? Three years for just $99.

The program, dubbed WebsiteStart, gives developers and firms that join three licenses for Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, two licenses for Expression Web 3, and one license for Expression Studio 3, according to a company statement.

It also provides four processor licenses for production use for Windows Web Server 2008 or R2 (when available) and four processor licenses for production use to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Web Edition, as well as a third-party Web site control panel (DotNetPanel), the company said.

The idea is to encourage more small and medium-sized businesses to adopt the company’s Web site and application development tools, partly by providing the tools at generous financial terms.

For instance, developers and designers accepted into the program don’t have to pay even the $99 charge until the end of the three-year period.

“There is no obligation to continue to use any of the software after the three years is over, and there are no costs for the three years other than a $100 program fee at the end of the three years,” Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s .NET Developer Platform, said in a blog post Thursday.

ex-Microsofties like it

WebsiteStart has already garnered the attention to two former employees who left Microsoft in recent years to start their own small firms.

“The $99 price is a lot cheaper than what I would pay as an alumni at the
Company Store for Expression Web and Visual Studio products,” Randy Brown, who does independent Web consulting, told in an e-mail.

Ken Levy, president of MashupX, LLC, as well as president of the .NET Developer Association in Microsoft’s home town, Redmond, Wash., cited the program’s benefits.

“The value to developers of getting Visual Studio 2008 Pro, Microsoft Expression, Windows Server 2008, and SQL Server for developing and hosting ASP.NET and/or Silverlight applications should open the door to thousands of new Web sites created by small businesses,” Levy said in an e-mail to

Stick with it, pay up

However, at the end of the three year period, it does become a little more confusing.

“At the end of the three years, WebsiteSpark participants can optionally choose to purchase all of the software in the WebsiteSpark program via a $999/year package,” Guthrie’s post said.

“Alternatively, if you want to purchase only the production server licenses, you can take advantage of a $199/year offering that includes both one Windows Web Server processor license and one SQL Server Web edition processor license. You can buy the quantity you need of this package at $199/year each.”

WebsiteSpark is similar to a program for students called DreamSpark that Microsoft launched in February 2008.

Additionally, in late November 2008, Microsoft introduced a program like DreamSpark that provides development tools for software startups. That program is called BizSpark.

More information on the WebsiteStart program is available here.

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