Microsoft developer program gets a facelift

Aiming to encourage smaller, independent software vendors in Canada and around the world to start using Visual Studio .Net, Microsoft Canada Co. announced on Wednesday a few changes to its Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) Program.

VSIP, which started in 1999 and was formerly known as the Visual Studio Integration Program, was expanded this year to encompass more partners, said Lenny Louis, product manager for .Net developer tools at Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont.

“As the .Net framework and Visual Studio .Net become more standardized across companies, more and more partners want to build products that leverage [the framework and Visual Studio .Net],” Louis said, adding that about 70 million systems worldwide use the .Net framework.

The new program is divided into three tiers of membership, replacing the single-tiered program from several years ago. The new system, Louis said, is designed to bring more companies into the realm of .Net.

“It is designed to accommodate both large and small partners that have add-on tools and add-on components,” he said.

The first level, called affiliate, is a free-level membership for smaller companies looking for access to VSIP’s software development kit (SDK), including newsgroup support and inclusion in the online product catalogue.

Next is the alliance level, where company members pay US$3,000 for membership. In addition to the first-tier services, these companies will also receive enhanced co-marketing opportunities to the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN).

The highest level is the premier level, where fees are US$10,000. For this fee, members receive both affiliate and alliance-level benefits and also have eligibility to distribute Visual Studio .Net and license the Visual Studio Premier Partner edition. Current members of VSIP will automatically be transferred to the premier level.

There are four Canadian companies at the premier level, Louis said, including Waterloo, Ont.-based MKS Inc. and ActiveState Corp. out of Vancouver. In total, there are about eight companies in Canada that are members of the VSIP. That number will likely increase now that the program has three layers of participation, he added.

“There are smaller outfits in Canada who have great ideas of how to build components or little add-ons to Visual Studio .Net and they don’t have US$10,000 and they’re not interested in higher-end marketing opportunities. They can now build their own product and join VSIP for free,” Louis said.

To date, Microsoft said there are more than 175 companies worldwide that are partners of the VSIP. Together these partners offer about 300 tools and add-ons for its Visual Studio .Net.

In other Microsoft news, the company also released the roadmap for the next few years for Visual Studio .Net and the .Net framework. The next version of Visual Studio .Net, code-named Whidbey, will support the latest Web services specifications through Web Services Enhancements (WSE) for .Net, as well as enhanced debugging, no-touch deployment and other features such as Edit and Continue.

Microsoft said it planned to align the Whidbey version of Visual Studio .Net and the .Net framework with the next version of Microsoft SQL Server, code-named Yukon.

Another upgrade to Visual Studio .Net, code-named Orcas, will be available at the same time the company releases the next version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, code-named Longhorn.

Microsoft Canada is on the Web at