By Joanna Fletcher
Are you sitting down? Microsoft is offering free software! Well, almost free. You can sign up for Microsoft WebsiteSpark for free and get access to some of the newest and best Web design and development software Microsoft can deliver.
Free Software Licenses
WebsiteSpark is a golden opportunity to get all that Microsoft technology you need to play with the big boys while you are still sleeping on the floor of your office and instant noodles form the bulk of your diet. Designed for new Web design shops and development groups involving 10 or less bodies, you don't have to pay as long as you are using the programs to put up some Web sites, or for 3 years, at which time you pay an “exit fee” of $100.
How It Works
Once you decide to sign up for WebsiteSpark, you get referred to as a Web Pro, and you need to find a referral from a Hosting Partner or a Network Partner. Once that's in place, you can use those Microsoft tools to build Web sites, as long as you post at least one live site in the first six months. You can also decide to host a limited number of sites yourself as a service to your clients, and receive the same benefits.
Support and Training
Perhaps the most valuable part of this program is the access to Microsoft's online communities and all their partner organizations. When you are just starting out, getting your name out into this huge global community can only help you grow your business. Community support from people using the same tools and going through the same start-up experience is invaluable. Microsoft is augmenting their help with free training and limited free technical support for three years.
The more cynical among us will notice that this is very similar to the world-wide network and free access to software offered by those developing on a Linux platform, and is clearly Microsoft's attempt to compete. It may well work, due to the cozy familiarity of Microsoft for most non-techie entrepreneurs, meaning they do not have to learn a whole new system whilst they are getting their business off the ground.
It also means that Microsoft can support new businesses who will grow and promote their brand, and hosting partners can get in on the ground floor of those opportunities and increase their own visibility through the Microsoft system. Like it or not, Microsoft owns the standard architecture for business, and this program allows new Web shops to compete without a huge investment in software licenses.
About the Author
Joanna Fletcher is a netizen who has lived, worked, and played in virtual space for most of her life. Her entrepreneurial flair is topped only by her tolerance for failure.