LOS ANGELES--In its boldest bid yet to win the affections of emerging businesses, Microsoft on Wednesday announced a program that will allow some start-ups to use its server software free of charge.
Dubbed BizSpark, the program will be open to private companies that have been in business for fewer than three years and have less than $1 million in yearly revenue. Companies will also have to be recommended by one of Microsoft's many for-profit, nonprofit, government, or academic partners.
Dan'l Lewin, the former Apple executive who heads Microsoft's efforts to reach out to start-ups, said the fact that the program comes as the economy is slowing is a coincidence.
"There's plenty of lore about all the great companies that have been started in a down economy," Lewin said. "I think the good companies will hunker down and do well. We'll do our best to help them."
In addition to getting free software, participating companies will be able to take part in an online directory of start-ups so they can network and reach potential customers, Lewin said.
Those selected for the program will be able to get access to a range of products, Lewin said, from Visual Studio to Windows Server, SQL Server and SharePoint, among others. Microsoft's customer relationship management software will soon be an option as well.
That said, Lewin said it isn't an all-or-nothing offer. He said that companies can choose a mix of Microsoft and other software, including open-source products.
"They don't have to only build on our stuff," Lewin said.
Companies will get Microsoft's software free of charge for three years and will have to pay the then-prevailing licensing costs thereafter, Lewin said.
To beat my readers to the punch, yes, I'm familiar with the phrase "the first hit is free."
That said, I'm curious what readers--and particularly start-ups--think of the program.