codemonkey.jpg(Note: if you just hate everything Microsoft, now’s a great time to skip this post. 🙂 )
So what’s the difference between Microsoft Empower and Microsoft BizSpark (of which I’m now a Network Partner, meaning you can get in through me.)?
I think it depends on your circumstances. I was in Empower – and found it a great help in getting my microISV product out the door. Empower is good, the tech support is a real asset and over the years it has been one of the good things that Microsoft has done for desktop developers. If fact, if you were creating a microISV or startup around a Windows desktop or Windows Mobile app, you could do that too with BizSpark.
That said, let’s say you’re a .NET developer code monkey. You’ve been watching everybody else create startups – especially web apps – using open source, getting $10 million in (sadly no more) easy VC money etc.
But you don’t know Rails or PHP or Python. You’ve been slaving away in C# .NET, ASP.NET or VB.NET. That’s what you know. You get a great idea for a web app – but to license Windows Server (IIS) and SQL Server alone would cost way more money than you have.
Code monkey not happy.
Along comes BizSpark. You get not just development licenses and tech support for everything from VS Team System on down, but development and production licenses for all the Microsoft major (and I think most of the minor, but who can keep up?) servers. That means you could build out a web app using the skills you know, for zero – just like we programmers who build web apps in the open source world.
Code monkey happy!
Also, when you are talking about creating a commercial venture, you have to look past today and try and get a sense of what will work a year, 2 years, 3 years down the line. Silverlight has gone from CTP to 2.0 in 18 months. Microsoft Azure/Mesh are on the same fast track – even more so. I think when Azure get’s out of CTP/beta it will get added to BizSpark bigtime.
I like the idea of Microsoft making it just as possible for a .NET programmer to build a startup as it is for an Open Source programmer to do so. That’s why I’m sitting here Saturday morning answering queries about it and writing this post.
Is it a clever way for Microsoft to make millions? You bet!
After 3 years, BizSpark ends for you and either you a) didn’t create a startup, shrug, pay Microsoft a $100 disconnect fee and move on or b) your startup rocks, you’re making money hand over fist (they don’t kick you out just because you make your first million, by the way) and you could give a rat’s ass that you have to pay for the Microsoft tech you’ve had for free because you’ve built a company and those licensing fees are just another business cost, small compared to even one contractor or employee’s salary.
And again, I’m for anything that makes it easier for code monkeys to fire their bosses and start their own companies.
(Re this Code Monkey stuff – I was and still am at heart a code monkey and proud of it!)

1 Comment

  1. I think Microsoft is missing the point with BizSpark. The reason Code Monkeys don’t use Microsoft platforms after they escape to the startup or microISV is that they don’t have to anymore. It’s not just because of cost.
    In the corporate world, Microsoft is seen as safe. It has a big corporation and big license costs behind it to prove that. Microsoft isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In the world of startups and microISVs open source is seen as safe because you have the code, you can fix a showstopper yourself (or pay someone to fix it) , no one can change the licensing terms, no one can screw you over.
    It’s about freedom, not cost.
    It’s also about shedding the trappings of the Code Monkey life. You don’t still wear a tie and commute 2 hours and work in a cubicle 9-5 under fluorescent lights when you start working for yourself. You change all that. Changing your tools and platform is as much a part of changing your mindset as losing the tie is.
    Finally, it’s about picking a community that you are going to participate in. If I’m building desktop Windows applications then it probably doesn’t make sense to eschew Microsoft tools and platforms. But where am I going to have the best conversations about what it takes to launch a 2 person SaaS play? At Microsoft’s PDC or RailsConf? RailsConf of course.
    Most “nights and weekends” Rails developers are Java or .NET guys in their day jobs. It’s not about reusing skills and being afraid to learn something new. It’s about something stimulating and better and new and community and it’s about what’s cool and fun and not cool and fun. That’s what Microsoft needs to tackle to make BizSpark (or something like it) successful.

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