I would assume I know a thing or two about startups. For starters, I’ve attempted a couple myself, giving me an inside view of entrepreneurship. The many entrepreneurs that I’ve gotten to know over the years of organizing Proto.in help give me a peek into the overall ecosystem.
Almost the bulk of the startups that I know of start off using Open Source software or something that’s available for free. PHP is the language of choice for web development. Consequently, MySQL the pick for database. For corporate email, Hosted GMail for domains rules. Google apps for everything with collaboration. Skype for teleconferece. OpenOffice for docs & spreadsheets. If you notice, the underlying common denominator is the cost. It’s zilch. You can’t argue with ‘Free’. For an entrepreneur who is starting off on a shoestring of budget, this *is* a big deal.
It’s a good thing that Microsoft has realized this. Their latest release of the BizSpark program is a great long term vision to ally with the startups and at the same time take on the Open Source onslaught in their own home ground.
Through the BizSpark program, Microsoft is giving away most of its software for virtually free. Check this out. Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server, BizTalk Server and Systems Center, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, MSDN Premium subscription, Microsoft Express Studio (design tools), Microsoft Windows (Vista, XP, all Ultimate & enterprise editions), All SDKs, and Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional. In case you didn’t notice, that’s pretty much a bulk of MS’ key offerings. All free for 3 years. Add to this free support.
This reminded me of my home town, Pondicherry’s strategy to boost tourism and business. They gave tax holidays for 5 years to all new hotels and IT companies. No taxes at all. You take home all the profit you make. Ventures started flooding in. It’s been a very successful program. This year that holiday comes to an end, and now the government will benefit from its five year patience because the taxes from these companies will start flowing in.
The strategy is the same for Microsoft. Encourage the startups to use Microsoft products. The first 3 years is the most crucial for startups to grow and they are giving their help and support at this crucial period of their growth. Once these fledgling startus metamorph into an established company, they get to reap the benefits of selling both new software and support.
You have to give it to Microsoft for chalking out a long term strategy across 82 countries.
Will this affect Open Source? One would be tempted to answer ‘yes’ but in the long run, this competition is actually good for the community. It will make them push the bar even higher resulting in better products.
Competition is always good.