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Opinion: You Should Be Using Microsoft BizSpark

Opinion: You Should Be Using Microsoft BizSpark

December 6, 2011 | By Forrest Smith




[In this reprinted #altdevblogaday-opinion piece, Uber Entertainment software engineer Forrest Smith evangelizes Microsoft's BizSpark program, and explains why "side project developers" should sign up.]

Microsoft BizSpark (homepage, FAQ) is a program designed to give Microsoft software to software development start-ups for free.

If you've never heard of it then you aren't alone. If you have heard of it then you can confirm it's awesome. This is my Public Service Announcement to assist fellow devs.

What Software

What software does Microsoft provide to BizSpark members? All of it. Well, damn near close. Here's are some highlights:
  • Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate
  • Windows 7 - Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Home Server
  • Windows Vista - Home Premium, Business, Ultimate
  • Windows XP - Home, Professional
  • Office Ultimate
  • SQL Server
  • Exchange
  • Outlook
  • Project
  • Access
  • Sharepoint
  • Visio
  • One Note
  • Azure
Software with regular updates have several previous versions also available. For example, Visual Studio can be acquired in 2005, 2008, and 2010 flavors. A full list is available here1.

What BizSpark does is give you a Visual Studio Ultimate MSDN subscription. This ordinarily costs $11,900 for the first year and $3,800 for each year after. Through MSDN you can claim keys and download installers/iso images.

Through BizSpark some of the software has a two key limit. This is per version (Win7 Home Premium / Professional / Ultimate + N/NK) so it's plenty. Visual Studio appears to allow an unlimited number of installs.

Who Can Use BizSpark

Who is eligible for BizSpark? Software companies that are less than three years old and make less than one million dollars per year.

When you sign up, I believe you have to provide business license information. S-Corp, C-Corp, LLC, and even Sole Proprietorship are all valid. It's a global program with large international availability.

As a Seattle-based dev, it took a week to get accepted. I have heard that when BizSpark started a few years ago, it was quite difficult to get in. Today that does not appear to be the case.

I am fortunate that my full-time job is awesome and allows side projects. I set up a business for side project mobile development and used that to join BizSpark. Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate + Analyze is fantastic2. I strongly recommend other side project developers to do the same.

What Are The Restrictions

So far, BizSpark is free to join and gives you tons of free software. What are the restrictions? What happens to the licenses after three years or after you make a million dollars? You keep them. Forever!

There is a graduation process that occurs when either the three years or one million dollar event occurs. It consists of answering some questions and providing feedback. Do that and you get to keep every key for full commercial use.

Students

DreamSpark (link) is a similar offering for students but much smaller in scale. It does include Visual Studio Ultimate and is trivial to sign up for. There is also the Microsoft Academic Alliance (link) which is larger and includes Windows 7 licenses. The Academic Alliance requires your school to register and the school can then distribute login information per student.

Conclusion

BizSpark is awesome and I have nothing but good things to say about it. If you don't have an account but are eligible then you should probably sign up today3.

Footnotes
  1. Windows 7 Enterprise is a lie, sorry.
  2. Analyze can actually be acquired free via the Windows SDK. Details here courtesy Bruce Dawson.
  3. If you are a purely Linux/OS X dev shop then maybe not. You can still get Office for Mac though for free though!
[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]


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