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.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

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

Red Herring’s Falguni Bhuta predicts “More (Open Source) momentum in developing countries”:

“Open-source software’s transparent nature and low-cost will make it more popular among developing countries such as China and India (see India State: Linux In, MS Out). Marten Mickos, CEO of open-source database company MySQL, says the fast-growing BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) will be breeding grounds in 2007 for interesting open source startups because of the large market and talent. “China and India are so large together, like they have become the physical goods factories of the world, the same will happen with open source,” Mr. Allison says”

Infosys PyramidWhile I hope that Falguni’s prediction materializes, a conversation with my cousin in India a few days ago made me wonder for a second.

My cousin works as an IT Admin for a very large American bank with operations in India. His group develops and manages applications, (along with the related OSes and hardware) for use in the bank’s Indian operations. This isn’t an outsourcing operation. I figured they’d be using lots of open source like LAMP, Tomcat or Geronimo to keep costs down. They weren’t. They’re using a lot of Microsoft technology. When I asked why they weren’t using Linux, he asked about how secure Linux and open source in general was. To be honest I was a little surprised that (1) they weren’t using more open source products and (2) he questioned the security of Linux vs. Windows. Note, this is based on a sample size of 1 (well 2 because I’ve heard similar things from another cousin when I asked about Java or PHP vs. .NET, and MySQL vs. Oracle usage), so take it with several grains of salt.

Upon reflection, I shouldn’t have been too surprised:

1] I’ve heard about how important MCSE and other Microsoft certification is in India

2] Microsoft continues to invest heavily in India. Microsoft also benefits from Indian outsourcing companies working for overseas customers with investments in Microsoft technology. If the overseas customer is outsourcing work on Microsoft technology, then Indian outsourcing firms need employees with Microsoft skills.

3] I came across this post from Christopher Blizzard who writes:

.. students who are in schools to which we suggest that they get involved in open source software in India often ask “how will doing work in open source software help me get a job?”

Remember that many of these students are becoming the highest earners in their (extended) family by securing an IT job. This sometimes means that they are, wholly or in part, supporting their parents and siblings through these IT jobs. As a result, they’re very focused on taking steps that will directly result in “a good job with a good company”. Why contribute to an open source project when I can be studying, (which is what classmates are doing)? Sure contributing open source code is good experience, but good exam results often play a larger role in securing a job in India. And yes, one can argue that if you contribute a lot to, say,, you may get a job with a commercial Linux distro vendor, but that’s an edge case scenario today.

Maybe the increasing penetration of open source in North America & Europe will drive the need for more open source skills within Indian outsourcing companies. As a result, students will have an incentive to work on open source projects while in school. As this happens, some will surely decide to found an open source-based venture, or decide that such a venture is “a good job with a good company”. It’s also good to see commercial open source vendors like Red Hat hiring more Indian staff. And from a personal standpoint, we have a sizable team of IBM India employees working on Geronimo & WAS CE development & support. Oh, and let’s not forget about the buzz from Indian Government agencies adopting Linux, which should drive more interest for working on open source projects.

The future is definitely bright for open source innovation from India and other emerging countries, but there’s plenty of work to be done yet…it’s going to be a fun ride indeed!


Microsoft & Zend announced a multi-year agreement aimed at improving the performance of PHP on Microsoft web server, Internet Information Server (IIS). Historically, PHP has performed substantially better on the Apache web server than on IIS. Early results from the joint work indicate 100-150% performance improves in certain cases. This could indicate great work, or just how terrible performance was before.

PHP has long been a competitor to ASP, so while some say this is a great example of how to work with OSS companies, I suggest that this is likely step 1 along a path that will see Microsoft implement a PHP runtime into the .NET CLR (as they have done with Python) and either compete with or acquire Zend (the latter wouldn’t be easy at all). I’ve said it before during some IBM work: “Every PHP developer out there today is a VB developer that Microsoft lost” (sure developers use multiple languages; but the fact that they’re using PHP for a given application instead of VB has to be worrisome).

Microsoft could live with a VB developer leaving VB for PHP, as long as it’s PHP on .NET. Hence, I’m not sure this deal is great for the PHP community or PHP developers in general.  It is however good for Zend because it means another large IT that could become a suitor in the future (and hence a bidding war – sorry, I have real estate on my mind).