Microsoft’s recent release of Visual Studio 2008 has focused new interest on its Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) program, which services a market for more than three million Visual Studio developers. Microsoft has created the VSIP program as a multi-tiered offering, designed to support interested developers at varying levels of expertise and buy-in. In return, the company provides access to special technical resources and technology previews, and provides support to developers who seek to create products that will integrate with the Visual Studio environment.
There are three levels of VSIP program membership (signing up for paid levels requires a minimum three year contractual commitment):
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• Affiliate Membership: This is a free offering that simply allows developers to create their own Package Load Keys (PLKs) and Shell Load Keys (SLKs) using the members portal;
• Alliance Membership: This offerings costs $3,000 per year and is aimed at individuals and organizations that seek to extend Visual Studio through add-ins, extensions, or strongly related toolsets. Alliance members obtain access to the VSIP portal (which includes planning, building, and marketing support, extra documentation, access to special events, and so forth), newsletters and other publications. Technical benefits include an MSDN premium subscription, and one license for Visual Studio Team System, four MSDN professional support incidents, access to VSIP developer clinics, invitations to online design reviews and technical presentations, plus early access to pre-release Microsoft development and product technologies. Microsoft also offers numerous opportunities to promote and publicize partner products via newsletters, mailings, brochures, joint marketing, Web sites and webcasts, trade show participation, and more:
• Premiere Membership: This offering costs $10,000 per year and aims primarily at organizations building applications around Visual Studio, or that seek to offer significant extensions to the Visual Studio development environment. Premiere members get everything that Alliance members get, plus additional technical and market benefits and support. These include access to some Microsoft market research, access to Visual Studio source code, featured MSDN partner status, demonstration opportunities for Partner Software, internal Microsoft Field Portal placement, points toward Microsoft Certified Partner ISV competency requirements, and participation in MSDN Webcasts. In general Premiere members get preferential treatment from Microsoft’s developer support organizations.
Individuals or companies with strong interests in or commitments to Visual Studio will find ample additional inside information about Visual Studio through the VSIP program. For independents and small companies, Alliance Membership may be as much participation as they can afford, but for larger outfits in the Visual Studio tools space, Premiere Membership is probably a necessary component in any well-architected marketing and sales strategy, simply because working shoulder-to-shoulder with Microsoft is a key ingredient in any such effort.
Ed Tittel is a writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review. Cool tools rule!