Microsoft Launches Bizspark Program in the Philippines, Tries to Stake out Place in the Future of Computing

Join BizSpark
Microsoft launched locally last Thursday its global Bizspark program. BizSpark is a program for technology startups to get access at little full-featured Microsoft tools and
technologies, plus production licensing for hosted solutions for three years.
Only a nominal fee of USD$100 will be payable upon successful completion of the three-year program.

They launched
in partnership with the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), where the CICT and government will help them identify companies who fit the criteria of operating less than three years and with less than a million dollars in revenues.

It seems particular emphasis will be be given to companies developing hosted solutions or cloud software services in the cloud:

For startups building hosted software, BizSpark includes production
licenses for the application and management servers including Windows
Server, SQL Server, SharePoint Portal Server, Biztalk Server and
Systems Center. Startups will also have the opportunity to be profiled
and promoted on the BizsparkDB, an online startup directory, where
promising startups from around the world can gain market visibility.

This seems to be Microsoft’s response to the growing threat of open source taking over the cloud. In the cloud computing model, customers put their technology infrastructure in the hands of vendors who deliver computing services remotely and virtually through the Internet. This infrastructure is paid for and managed completely by the vendor–requiring them to invest massive amounts of money in hardware and software–such as operating systems, virtualization platforms, databases, network management tools and others. The ability to quickly scape up and integrate with other systems is paramount. Existing vendors, including the big ones such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon have been enthusiastic in their embrace of open source as it dramatically reduces their costs in licensing.

With programs such as BizSpark, I think Microsoft is trying to recapture mindshare it has lost gradually to developers and service providers, who have been embracing open source because of its low barrier to entry and wide support in terms of infrastructure. Case in point is the LAMP (or Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl), Ruby on Rails, or J2EE and PostgreSQL stack. With virtually zero upfront cost and hosting to be had for as little as US$5 a month,and add to that the ability to innovate faster by leveraging communities of like-minded users without limits to what can be done with code, startups have become dedicated consumers of open source as they build their product and their business.  Erstwhile startups and now successful Internet services such as Facebook, Youtube, Digg and Friendster have launched on these platforms. And if by just looking at the the sites in websites such as PinoyWebStartup, or the skills being posted in sites like JobsDB, Jobstreet and in sites like Pinoylancer, or VC-backed local initiatives like Labs and others, it seems local startups have as well.

Personally I doubt if this move will earn them new converts. This could be a boon for companies who are already committed to the Microsoft platform anyway, and will at least dissuade them from using pirated or cracked versions of Microsoft’s products to bootstrap their venture. I think as time goes by, at least in the low end of the market, it is inevitable that they will lose ground to open source. Just as IBM retreated upmarket to large enterprises as they lost ground to PCs from startups using open industry platforms and commodity pricing in hardware several years ago, Microsoft simply can’t compete with the economic and technical value proposition of open source. Why trade in vendor lock-in and a selective,  pay-to-join program for something that is open to all and free?