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How do you ensure that your product stays relevant in the future? Reach out to the next generation of innovators. In what sounds like a smart marketing tactic, several large companies are seeking to encourage software start-ups to use their products and services — through initiatives that range from free software development tools to a contest.
Microsoft in November launched a program called BizSpark that offers eligible software start-ups around the globe free access to various Microsoft products — as long as the start-ups are privately held, less than three years old, have annual revenue of less than $1 million and are referred by partners such as venture capitalists. (The start-ups do pay a $100 fee when they leave the program.) Meanwhile, Sun Microsystems has a program for start-ups called Sun Startup Essentials that includes discounted servers and open source software. And Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently announced this year’s winner of a contest it sponsors for start-ups that use its cloud computing platform.
Microsoft is also reaching out to those who may become future innovators: High-school and college students in a number of countries can participate in its DreamSpark program to download a number of Microsoft software development tools for free.