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Internet Startups! Get Free Microsoft Software

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Is this a gesture of kindness to poor beleaguered new businesses in their hour of need? Or perhaps a cynical attempt to consolidate market position and shut out competition?

Microsoft have launched a scheme called BizSpark, which offers free software to tech startups with the aim of “supporting and accelerating the success of a new generation of high-potential Startups.” Basically, you can use Microsoft products free for the first three years while you’re growing your company.

The offer is limited to startups who are developing software, which leaves a number of firms out of the loop. In addition, you must be a private company, operating for less than three years, with no more than $1 million in revenue. There ought to be a few Kenyan firms that qualify for that, right?

It all seems very altruistic and is probably at least partly a touchy-feely PR exercise, but I can’t shake the feeling that a more cynical agenda is behind this. By offering new businesses free software when they are just starting out, Microsoft is probably betting on the fact that by the time they’re established, they won’t want the hassle of switching systems once they have to start paying for their software licences. Also, because all of the businesses taking up the BizSpark offer will be registered, it will be to keep track of who is and isn’t paying when the price of their business licences inevitably rises.

Maybe I’m cynical. Maybe I’m just grumpy because I haven’t had enough coffee and nobody is desperately offering me free software for my business. Or maybe, just maybe, new businesses would be well-advised to think very carefully before they take advantage of Microsoft’s offer.

[Image by Mikko Miettinen]

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