About a year ago, Microsoft launched a cool new program called DreamSpark to help students get started learning to use Microsoft development technologies. DreamSpark allows students to access a wide range of development software from a secure site, allowing them download fully-licensed products like Visual Studio 2008 Professional, SQL Server 2008 Developer Edition, Windows Server 2008, and XNA Game Studio 2.0, among others. I have always thought this was a cool initiative on Microsoft's part to help those developers who don't have the financial means to gain access to these products themselves.
Well, it seems Microsoft is at it again. Today S. Somasegar (Soma), Senior Vice President of Microsoft's Development Division, announced on his blog the launch of BizSpark. Think of this new program as the DreamSpark for small businesses. But instead of just offering a few of the essentials, like DreamSpark does for students, Microsoft is offering small businesses the opportunity to gain full access to development tools and platform technologies with no up-front cost. More specifically, you'll get access to great tools like Expression Studio 2, Windows Server, SQL Server, and software included in the Microsoft Visual Studio Team System Team Suite with MSDN Premium subscription. Wow!
So how does a small business qualify for such a great opportunity? Your business simply must meet the following requirements:
There are a couple of things about this program you should be aware of. First, you can only use the software for production and deployment if you are developing a new "software as a service" solution. There is no similar requirement for using the software to develop and test other kinds of solutions. Second, you can only participate in the program for a maximum of 3 years, at the end of which you must pay a USD $100 program offering fee. That seems to me a small price to pay for such a great deal!
If you're interested in more information, you can check it out at the BizSpark site. I recommend reading the Frequently Asked Questions to get more specific details. Enjoy the free software!