Microsoft has launched a program that gives Web development professionals the chance to get free software and technical support to help them get new businesses off the ground.
Web development companies with less than 10 employees can apply for the new WebsiteSpark program, which was unveiled at the PICNIC conference in Amsterdam Thursday.
The program is similar to Microsoft's BizSpark program launched last year, which provides software and other resources to startups, and the DreamSpark program, which does the same for students.
Eddie Amos, general manager for Microsoft's developer platform and tools group, said the company added WebsiteSpark because it realized there was a "hole" in the enablement programs where Web professionals are concerned.
The programs also provide a way for Microsoft to get young companies and developers using its software in their businesses. In the Web development and Web design space many companies already use products from Adobe and other Microsoft competitors.
Through WebsiteSpark -- which companies can apply for online -- Microsoft will provide three licenses for Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, two licenses for Expression Web 3 and one license for Expression Studio 3. Qualifying companies also receive four processor licenses for production use of both Windows Web Server 2008 and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Web Edition.
The program also includes two technical-support incidents per company, access to community support through connections with other Microsoft partners and unlimited access to technical managed newsgroups on the Microsoft Developer Network.
Cyrus Massoumi, whose company ZocDoc has been a part of Microsoft's BizSpark program, said getting free software and support has been a great benefit. ZocDoc provides a Web site through which people can book doctors' appointments.
"The program enables us to work with Microsoft's latest technologies without worrying about cost, and the savings for our data center are significant," said Massoumi, ZocDoc's CEO and founder.
In addition to unveiling WebsiteSpark, Microsoft Thursday also updated its Web Platform Installer software, which simplifies the installation of Microsoft Web development software to make it easier to build Web applications. The 2.0 version is available online for download.