WebsiteSpark Launch Aims To Boost Microsoft Web Development

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A new Microsoft programme aims to beef up its web development platform ecosystem and foster innovation for professional web developers and designers

Microsoft’s WebsiteSpark programme is an initiative designed to create a partner network and help enable business growth for professional web development and design companies with up to 10 employees and owners, said Eddie Amos, general manager of platform and tools at Microsoft.

Microsoft also announced the release of the Web Platform Installer 2.0 and the Windows Web Application Gallery 2.0, key components of the Microsoft web Platform. Together, these initiatives make it easier for web professionals to build richer, more compelling web experiences much like its recent cloud moves.

As the latest initiative in the Spark family of programmes, which includes Microsoft BizSpark and DreamSpark, Microsoft is building upon a legacy of working with key communities and providing the additional support, tools and resources needed to help them thrive, Amos said.

The WebsiteSpark programme provides web professionals with Microsoft software and solutions, together with related tools, training and support, to help their businesses succeed. The WebsiteSpark programme also helps drive new business opportunities by connecting web professionals and hosters with an ecosystem of customers, partners and other professionals with complementary technologies.

“Developers are the lifeblood of our business, and we are wholly committed to ensuring their success,” said Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business division, in a statement. “WebsiteSpark makes Microsoft’s web development tools and support more accessible to developers and designers at small companies as they create inventive applications for the web. Our third Spark programme, WebsiteSpark furthers our commitment to ignite innovation among key communities and individuals.”

“We want to make sure we get web developers the ability to get Microsoft technologies seamlessly,” Amos told eWEEK.

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

These include Microsoft web design and development tools, including three licences of Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, two licenses of Microsoft Expression web 3 and one license of Microsoft Expression Studio 3.

And it offers four processor licences for production usage to Windows web Server 2008 or R2 (when available) and four processor licenses for production usage to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Web Edition, as well as a third-party premium website control panel (DotNetPanel).

“This is a huge step for us,” said Brian Goldfarb, lead product manager in the Microsoft web platform and tools group. “This is the first step we’ve taken to enable these smaller companies.”

“In a nutshell, the WebsiteSpark programme makes it easier for companies to access and build on the Microsoft web Platform, which offers web developers and designers around the world a robust environment for innovating on the web,” said S. “Soma” Somasegar, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Developer Division, in a blog post.

Participating companies will receive professional support and training in the form of 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 Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN); and unlimited program support for non-technical issues.

In a blog post about WebsiteSpark, Scott Guthrie, a corporate vice president in the Microsoft Developer Division, said: “WebsiteSpark is a three-year program. There is no obligation to continue to use any of the software after the three years are over, and there are no costs for the three years other than a $100 program fee at the end of the three years.

“At the end of the three years, websiteSpark participants can optionally choose to purchase all of the software in the websiteSpark program via a $999 a year package. This includes 3 copies of VS Professional, 1 copy of Expression Studio (including Blend and Sketchflow), 2 copies of Expression web, and 4 processor licences of Windows web Server 2008 and 4 processor licences of SQL Server Web Edition that can be used for production deployment.”

In addition to software, solutions, training and support, the program will extend the reach of participating companies by featuring their offerings in a WebsiteSpark marketplace, supported by Microsoft marketing vehicles. This marketplace, available this fall, will help them connect with new prospective customers worldwide, the company said.

Microsoft also claimed the WebsiteSpark Program provides a powerful global partner ecosystem to help support web professionals’ success. Around the world, partners such as Aruba Networks, Bitrix, Elance, Ikoula, PEER 1 Network Enterprises and Strato are providing business guidance and technical services to help these companies jump-start their development projects.

“BizSpark has been one of the best partner programs in the industry for helping startup businesses get off the ground, and the websiteSpark Program provides an even bigger opportunity for hosting companies and the web community,” said Robert Miggins, senior vice president of business development for PEER 1. “We see a lot of web developers and web agencies choosing the Microsoft platform to build their web applications and web sites, and we are committed to help them be successful.”

Meanwhile, Microsoft also launched Web Platform Installer 2.0, which provides developers with a simplified installation of Microsoft products and technologies that helps reduce download complexity. Version 2 includes new additions such as IIS Media Services and a Windows Azure software development kit (SDK). Improved package handling enables developers to download components of the Microsoft web Platform once, and deploy or redeploy component packages on multiple machines, saving bandwidth and time.

With the Microsoft Web Platform Installer, developers also can access dozens of free web applications to help build their websites and applications, whether they’re developing in ASP.NET or PHP. This includes more than 20 new applications, from both Microsoft and the larger community, via the Windows web Application Gallery, such as WordPress, DotNetNuke, Acquia Drupal, SugarCRM and Umbraco.

“We’ve extended our partner ecosystem,” said Lauren Cooney, group product manager for web platform and standards in Microsoft’s Developer Division. “We’re committed to our developer and designer partners. We’re creating and strengthening our ecosystem around the developer community, and we’re extending that reach from small companies to large enterprises.”

Microsoft’s WebsiteSpark Programme is now available worldwide. Interested web professionals can learn more about enrolling in the program by visiting Microsoft web Platform Installer 2.0 is available worldwide and can be downloaded at Microsoft’s website.

“Coming at a time when the current economic climate is still tough, WebsiteSpark will help support developers and companies by providing the business resources, training and software necessary for companies to get started and grow successful businesses on the Microsoft Web Platform,” Guthrie said.

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