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Microsoft has launched a new web developer program for small companies with ten employees or fewer.

Dubbed the WebsiteSpark, it's meant to create a network of small business web developers - and get them using Microsoft stuff. "People have been telling us: 'If I'm a service provider and I have ten or fewer employees and I'm working on web design, it's really hard to get access to things Microsoft is doing," Eddie Amos, Microsoft general manager of developer platform and tools, tells The Reg. "And that's why we've created this program."

If accepted into the program, developers get access to various Microsoft Web design and development tools, including three licenses for Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, two licenses for Microsoft Expression Web 3, and one license for Microsoft Expression Studio 3. For internal testing, a firm receives 3 user licenses each for Windows Web Server 2008 (or R2 when it’s released) and SQL Server 2008 Web. And for production, they receive 4 processor licenses each for Windows Web Server 2008 (or R2 when it’s released) and SQL Server 2008 Web.

Microsoft will also provide some support and training, including support for two - yes, two - technical incidents; unlimited access to technical, managed newsgroups on the Microsoft Developer Network; and unlimited program support for, um, nontechnical issues. No word on whether Microsoft will help out when you need a hangover cure for your alcoholic lead developer.

The program has no upfront cost, but there is a $100 fee you can pay when exiting. Once applications are up and running, Microsoft will help promote and sell them via an online marketplace. The program went live today, and you can join here.

Today, Redmond also launched a new version of its Microsoft Web Platform Installer, which aims to simplify installation of the company's tools. Through the Installer - available here - users can access the new Windows Web Application Gallery, a collection of open code web apps they can use to beef their own offerings. New Gallery apps include WordPress, DotNetNuke, Acquia Drupal, SugarCRM, and Umbraco. ®

Update: Originally, Microsoft provided us with incorrect information on the server licenses provided through the program. We have corrected this story with the correct information. For internal testing, a firm receives 3 user licenses each for Windows Web Server 2008 (and R2 when it’s released) as well as SQL Server 2008 Web. And for production, they receive 4 processor licenses each for Windows Web Server 2008 (and R2 when it’s released) as well as SQL Server 2008 Web.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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