Microsoft’s “£400 of freebies” for new start-ups is a joke

StartUp Britain is an initiative to help small businesses in the UK get a foothold in technology. Clearly this is a good thing in principle – though some have suggested that some of the sponsors and backers of this Government-applauded but privately backed venture are rather in it for themselves, judging by the help and offers that have been made public.

Chalk up Microsoft to this list. Apparently wanting to prove their care for and commitment to businesses, the company is offering a number of “free technology resources”, which they claim to be “worth up to £400 per company”. At first glance, this sounds like a great idea – but take a closer look at what’s being offered, and you’ll find all is not as good as it seems.

According to Microsoft advertising, the offer consists of:

1. “Webinars and seminars – we will build a programme to train 5,000 businesses” – which sounds just like the free webinars and seminars Microsoft already provides.

2. “A free 90-day trial of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to help you manage your customer relationships and sales pipeline. Worth £370.”

This one is the one that carries the biggest criticism. £370 of value in a 90-day trial of some Microsoft software? Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online has a 30 day trial for free available from the website, so this offer is basically just tripling an already free offering. As any mathematician knows, three times zero is still zero. Maybe a £37 value would have been fairer. But claiming this is “worth £370″ is an insult to small businesses.

The list goes on:

3. “A head-start on online advertising with Bing and Microsoft. Worth £30 + sign up for a free webinar.”

4. “A free 60-day trial of Microsoft Office, the essential software suite for managing a small business,” for which, curiously, Microsoft attaches no value.

So, what Microsoft’s offer amounts to is a £30 free play with their advertising engine; and two free trials of their most useful business software offerings. The reality is that Microsoft has not provided “free technology resources worth up to £400 per company”. If Microsoft were serious about giving true value to companies, then for a £400 value, they could have easily just given away two full licences of Office 2010 for small business for free. If they still felt the need to add fluff, they could just call it a bonus.

Trialware and a free play with your advertising engine adds up to a great big zero. And that’s my quick reality check for you, Microsoft. Take it – no charge. There’s two terms you could learn the meaning of…

The author would like to emphasize that he has no standing for or against Microsoft as an entity; and that excluding the final paragraph, the above article was written in as neutral a tone as possible.

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