Microsoft announced a new “Spark” program targeted at small web development shops with fewer than 10 employees. WebsiteSpark provides the following Microsoft development and production software licenses:

  • 3 licenses of Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition
  • 1 license of Expression Studio 3 (which includes Expression Blend, Sketchflow, and Web)
  • 2 licenses of Expression Web 3
  • 4 processor licenses of Windows Web Server 2008 R2
  • 4 processor licenses of SQL Server 2008 Web Edition
  • DotNetPanel control panel (enabling easy remote/hosted management of your servers)

These licenses are provided at no cost for the first three years.  After this term, the web development company, or individual consultant for that matter, must decide whether to continue using the licenses for $999 or $199 per year.  There’s an option to stop using the licenses all together.  But after three years of building skills with the Microsoft stack, I don’t see a significant portion of participants leaving the program.

To monetize the WebsiteSpark program, Microsoft will help participants find a hosting provider for the website/web application developed for their end clients.  Hosting providers offering a Microsoft runtime stack pay software license fees to Microsoft.  Even if the web development company decides to leave the WebsiteSpark program after the three year term, their clients whose website/web application is already running will continue to pay for hosting.  As a result, Microsoft will continue collecting license fees from the hosting providers.

Additionally, since there are only 3 licenses of Visual Studio, Microsoft could also generate license revenue from the fourth through tenth employee at the web development company.

So who exactly should care about this program?  Well, early-stage web development companies or a consultant just starting out is probably the target.  This company or consultant likely has .NET skills, but would prefer to see their business take off before paying for software licenses.  In other words, they are Microsoft customers to lose.  In the past the company or consultant would have been forced to look at (L)AMP because of the upfront cost consideration.

The response on ScottGu’s blog announcing the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Again, that’s because the target are Microsoft friendly ISVs or consultants who now have one less reason to look at (L)AMP.

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PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”