codemonkey.jpg(Note: if you just hate everything Microsoft, now’s a great time to skip this post. 🙂 )

So what’s the difference between Microsoft Empower and Microsoft BizSpark (of which I’m now a Network Partner, meaning you can get in through me.)?

I think it depends on your circumstances. I was in Empower – and found it a great help in getting my microISV product out the door. Empower is good, the tech support is a real asset and over the years it has been one of the good things that Microsoft has done for desktop developers. If fact, if you were creating a microISV or startup around a Windows desktop or Windows Mobile app, you could do that too with BizSpark.

That said, let’s say you’re a .NET developer code monkey. You’ve been watching everybody else create startups – especially web apps – using open source, getting $10 million in (sadly no more) easy VC money etc.

But you don’t know Rails or PHP or Python. You’ve been slaving away in C# .NET, ASP.NET or VB.NET. That’s what you know. You get a great idea for a web app – but to license Windows Server (IIS) and SQL Server alone would cost way more money than you have.

Code monkey not happy.

Along comes BizSpark. You get not just development licenses and tech support for everything from VS Team System on down, but development and production licenses for all the Microsoft major (and I think most of the minor, but who can keep up?) servers. That means you could build out a web app using the skills you know, for zero – just like we programmers who build web apps in the open source world.

Code monkey happy!

Also, when you are talking about creating a commercial venture, you have to look past today and try and get a sense of what will work a year, 2 years, 3 years down the line. Silverlight has gone from CTP to 2.0 in 18 months. Microsoft Azure/Mesh are on the same fast track – even more so. I think when Azure get’s out of CTP/beta it will get added to BizSpark bigtime.

I like the idea of Microsoft making it just as possible for a .NET programmer to build a startup as it is for an Open Source programmer to do so. That’s why I’m sitting here Saturday morning answering queries about it and writing this post.

Is it a clever way for Microsoft to make millions? You bet!

After 3 years, BizSpark ends for you and either you a) didn’t create a startup, shrug, pay Microsoft a $100 disconnect fee and move on or b) your startup rocks, you’re making money hand over fist (they don’t kick you out just because you make your first million, by the way) and you could give a rat’s ass that you have to pay for the Microsoft tech you’ve had for free because you’ve built a company and those licensing fees are just another business cost, small compared to even one contractor or employee’s salary.

And again, I’m for anything that makes it easier for code monkeys to fire their bosses and start their own companies.

(Re this Code Monkey stuff – I was and still am at heart a code monkey and proud of it!)