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Microsoft pitches Web tools to hosting companies

To appeal to individuals and small businesses, Microsoft adds a hosting program to promote Visual Web Developer 2005 Express.

As part of the launch of its flagship database and development tool, Microsoft on Monday is expected to unveil a program to entice Web hosting companies to use its server software, an important avenue to reach consumers and small businesses.

After a number of delays, Microsoft today released its SQL Server 2005 database and Visual Studio 2005 development tool at a press event in San Francisco.

The new products, which took years to develop, are designed to make Windows more suitable for large-scale applications. For many years, Microsoft has sought to make its server software more industrial strength for large corporate customers. This would help them better compete against Oracle, IBM, Sybase and others.

"I really want to go after the low-end Web hosting market," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during his keynote speech on Monday.

At the same time, Microsoft hopes to appeal to individuals and smaller companies with its latest product barrage.

An update to its Web hosting program is designed to make the combination of Microsoft server products more attractive to hosting companies, which often use Linux and other open-source components, Microsoft executives said.

"Hosters play a very important role in the Web development ecosystem," said Shawn Nandi, a Microsoft product manager for Web Platform and Tools. "They like to have a rich array of applications and tools available for building Web sites."

Microsoft will host applications for free during a 30-day trial period at a dedicated site when they use Visual Web Developer 2005 Express, a new product in the company's Visual Studio product line. The product is aimed at boosting use of Microsoft tools by individuals and small companies.

The program and the licenses associated with using its software will allow hosting companies to try Microsoft-based products with little or no up-front costs, Nandi said.

Using pre-written templates, users of Visual Web Developer Express will be able to download the toolkit and have a hosted Web site in 60 minutes, he said.