I’m not particularly pro -Microsoft but I’m not against it either.
I love Linux, got my [RHCE] (Red Hat Certified Engineer) a bit more than a year ago and I love Open Source, Linux and all things [GNU].
The only thing I really dislike about Microsoft is its marketing, its pricing, its [Genuine (Dis)Advantage] that nags me every time I need to install something and its lack of openness when it comes to inter-operability with other competing implementations (here I’m particularly thinking about its network protocols that the [Samba] team tries to decipher and re-implement as an Open Source platform).
On the other hand, Microsoft is made of great programmers, great minds that you can watch on [Channel 9] and read on their insightful [blogs].
Microsoft is really (I mean REALLY) [pro-developer]: they understand that the Operating System alone is nothing without lots of applications sitting on top of it, and they offer developers a lot of goodies.
One such useful programme is +Microsoft Empower for ISV_. It’s a simple membership that allows a small software company (ISV meaning _Independent Software Developer_) to own a number of licenses for its internal use at a fraction of the price it would normally cost.
What you get is pretty wide for a small business: 5 licenses for Windows XP (whatever version), 5 licenses for Microsoft Office, 1 license for Windows 2003 Server and Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint Portal, a MSDN Premium Subscription that covers almost anything else, including 5 licenses for Visual Studio 2005 Pro.
You also get access to MSDN downloads, beta software and tons of libraries, SDK, etc.
A MSDN subscription alone is about US$2000…
The Empower ISV programme is quite cheap and depend on the country you are in.
I paid mine HK$4,260 about US$530.
To get all this you need to register as a [Microsoft Partner] (that’s free), then apply for the [Empower for ISV programme] by making a promise to release a commercial software within 2 year at most. You need to give some details and pay your due. After a few days, you get confirmation if your application is accepted or not.
As far as I know, you need to be a company and have a company website, but that may not be mandatory in all regions.
The software you get is the normal US version plus whatever local version there are for your region. My bunch of DVD came in Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin, some in Korea and Thai too.
At least, the English version is supplied. For some software, you also get the multilingual version that include European languages as well.
You manage your licenses by login under your MSDN account.
Really, it’s a nice touch from Microsoft to give us poor developers access to all this for such a reasonable price. I can only encourage other small software companies and independent developers to do the same.