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Originally published Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Microsoft to slash software costs for selected startups

Microsoft is giving selected startup companies thousands of dollars worth of development tools and server software at an enormous discount for up to three years.

Seattle Times technology reporter

Microsoft is giving selected startup companies thousands of dollars worth of development tools and server software at an enormous discount for up to three years.

The company is announcing its BizSpark program today at a San Francisco Internet industry conference as a way to get more early-stage companies onto its platform.

"It's all about us creating this fast and easy onramp," said Dan'l Lewin, Microsoft's corporate vice president of strategic and emerging business development.

To participate, startup companies must have less than $1 million in annual revenue, be less than 3 years old and gain the recommendation of a venture-capital firm, business network or a "Microsoft champ" — more than 1,000 company employees around the world focused on software developers.

Microsoft is partnering with business networks around the world, including the European Business Angel Network, The Indus Entrepreneurs and the National Venture Capital Association to identify startups for the program.

Government economic-development agencies and university incubators will also be able to nominate companies.

Those qualified will get a three-year subscription to the Microsoft Developer Network, which includes tools for building applications on Microsoft's platforms. The program also includes full production access to Microsoft server software needed by companies building hosted applications.

Lewin said Microsoft will not require participating companies to use its software exclusively.

"The commitment we have to choice and interoperability stands firm here," he said.

When the startup exits the program, by staying in business for three years, being acquired or surpassing the annual revenue limit, they will owe Microsoft a $100 fee and transition to the normal licensing fees for the software they continue to use.

Lewin said BizSpark is broader than existing free software programs Microsoft offers Web developers and startups.

Participants will also get access to a preview of Microsoft's new cloud-computing platform, Windows Azure.

Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or bromano@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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