Microsoft's Biz Spark is Another Direct Shot at Open Source
GigaOm has an interesting post up today on Microsoft's effort to woo startups and combat the open source movement. Its new BizSpark initiative is being rolled out in 82 countries, and offers many types of incentives to developers and startups. It also steers people toward Microsoft's products, though, and challenges open source in several ways.
In Microsoft's BizSpark program, startups will get a three-year Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Professional subscription that will allow them to download Microsoft applications for building on Microsoft platforms. "Startups will also get free production licenses for application hosting and management servers, including Windows Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server, BizTalk Server and Systems Center and soon, Microsoft Dynamics CRM," reports GigaOm.
It is no secret that startups are very cost-conscious. Given the relative lack of cost-effective software solutions, they often tend to veer towards open source. In addition to being priced 'right', open source allows startups to maintain flexibility. Open source applications can be enhanced as desired, through access to the source code, where users are not locked into a proprietary solution. Microsoft understands the price-attraction of open source, and hence it is basically undercutting that advantage. Ultimately, this will be healthy for open source products as they will be forced to compete on value, beyond price.
Microsoft's BizSpark rings of the company's recent efforts to give free development tools to students in Norway. "Microsoft believes it has 'lost' a generation of developers who might have embraced Windows and .NET, thanks to the Mac and open source frameworks and operating systems," reported The Register in analyzing that news. Steve Ballmer himself pushed the effort to provide Visual Studio 2008, Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition, Microsoft Expression Studio, and XNA Studio 2.0 to the students for free.
Open source and the Mac are increasingly competitive platforms that Microsoft has to keep its eye on. Apple has been steadily gaining market share, and open source funding and development are still relatively healthy despite the gloomy market environment. Expect more of these efforts from Microsoft to steer developers and businesses toward its own platforms. Caveat (and user) emptor!