Microsoft has already started signing up companies in Asia to its BizSpark program, which offers free software and developer tools to new companies around the world.
The U.S. software giant launched BizSpark earlier this week as a program aimed at helping startups develop new applications, particularly online services and hosted applications, on Microsoft software.
The program has already launched in South Korea, where several companies plan to sign on.
MintPass, a portable network device developer, plans to sign up for BizSpark to boost its development of Windows CE 5.0 Professional. Joon Young, founder of the company, is famous in South Korean tech circles for founding ReignCom, maker of popular iRiver digital music players.
He sees one more advantage in BizSpark than just the free access to software and tools. He believes MintPass can use it as a marketing tool as well, to build brand awareness and possibly for fund-raising. MintPass is seeking around US$10 million in new funding.
Local partners in BizSpark will help match companies to grants and investors.
"Country by country we have network partners that will administer the program, so they will complement Microsoft's existing BizSpark offerings to meet local needs," said Kirk Drage, regional manager for local software economy at Microsoft.
For example, Software Park Thailand, opened by the government to boost software industry development, includes help finding government grants as part of its plans to work with Microsoft in BizSpark. The program has not yet formally started in Thailand.
BizSpark launch dates for several other countries in Asia, including Singapore and the Philippines, have not yet been announced.
The program is open to companies less than three years old that are privately held and have annual revenue of less than US$1 million, but they have to be nominated by a Microsoft partner. The goal is to have more companies developing software and new applications, particularly in online services and hosted applications, around Microsoft platforms.
Licenses for BizSpark members are free for three years, after which time the startups must pay.
Drage believes the main hurdle BizSpark relieves for startups is the time required to find all the Microsoft and partner resources available to them.