Microsoft enhances program

Visual Studio .Net will have an even stronger presence in the software development market after Microsoft Canada Co. recently announced changes to its Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) Program, according to one Toronto-based software development company.

For the last 12 years Dundas Software has been building extensions to Microsoft programming languages. Now that Microsoft is aiming at encouraging smaller, independent software vendors in Canada and around the world to start using Visual Studio .Net, the president and CEO of Dundas Software said it would help open the programming language to more developers, adding credibility to the VSIP program.

“[The revamp of the program] creates an increase in the ecosystem of people who will be making extensions and add-ins,” said David Cunningham.

VSIP, which started in 1999 and was formerly known as the Visual Studio Integration Program, was expanded this year to attract 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 deploy 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, affiliate, is a free-level membership for smaller companies looking for access to VSIP’s software development kits (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. These companies will also receive enhanced co-marketing opportunities with the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN).

The highest level is the premier level, where fees are $10,000. For this amount, members such as Dundas Software 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.

With the three-tiered program, being a premier-level partner now means that Dundas Software and its clients can have access to the same application program interfaces (APIs) and SDKs, Cunningham said.

“It increases the value of what being a premier level partner means,” he said. “Our experience over the last few years shows it’s better to be inclusive with people…it gives them a greater appreciation for what they are going to be buying as a solution that’s already provided.”

Cunningham said he has considered branching out to other languages, and for a brief time released a few products for the Java environment, but eventually decided to stay with .Net because of the marketplace that Microsoft offers its developers.

“People that grow up in the Java space have a different expectation of the way that business is conducted,” he said. “[Microsoft] brings a coherent group of a couple of million software developers so that you can focus on different strategies and different ways of packaging your products that appeal to Microsoft-centric developers.”

Right now, there are three other Canadian companies at the premier level including Waterloo, Ont.-based MKS Inc. and Active