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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 24, 2009 at 2:00 AM

Microsoft giving free tools — lots of them — to woo Web designers

Web designers haven’t exactly rushed out to buy Microsoft’s Expression design tools, which are aimed at a market dominated by Adobe.

But small design shops may have trouble resisting a new offer that Microsoft’s unveiling today, just before Adobe’s MAX design conference begins Oct. 4 in Los Angeles.

Under an expansion of its “Spark” business development program, Microsoft is offering small Web development and design companies software and services worth thousands of dollars for only a $100 fee.

The “WebsiteSpark” giveaway includes multiple copies of Expression, Visual Studio 2008, Web Server 2008 and SQL Server good for three years, plus technical support. Also included are free services from Microsoft partners such as hosting companies and promotion on a designer showcase Web site Microsoft’s creating for participants.

Eligibility is limited to Web design and development companies with up to 10 employees.

Microsoft expects 15,000 to 25,000 companies around the world will take advantage of the offer, said Mitra Azizirad, general manager of developer platform evangelism.

Earlier “Spark” programs that provided software to tech startups and college students were a hit. Over 10 months, more than 20,000 companies enrolled in the Bizspark program for startups, and the Dreamspark program for students has had more than 2.6 million downloads, Azizirad said.

“It’s to jump-start business development opportunities,” she said.

A detailed list of the WebsiteSpark offering, provided by a spokeswoman, is below:

Web development and design companies with up to 10 employees and owners can participate in the WebsiteSpark Program for three years with no upfront cost. There is only a $100 program offering fee, payable at exit, with no other costs or obligations. Once approved, these companies can have access to the following:

— Microsoft Web design and development tools, including three licenses of Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, two licenses of Microsoft Expression Web 3 and one license of Microsoft Expression Studio 3.

— Four processor licenses for production usage to Microsoft Windows Web Server 2008 or R2 (when available) and four processor licenses for production usage to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Web Edition.

— A third-party premium Web site control panel (DotNetPanel).

Participating companies also will receive the following professional support and training:

— Two technical support incidents per company.

— Access to community support through connections with network partners, hosting partners and peers with complementary services and technologies.

— Unlimited access to technical managed newsgroups on MSDN.

– -Unlimited program support for nontechnical issues.

Comments | Topics: adobe, bizspark, dreamspark

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