Empower ISV - Check the Small Print

You may have read about the Empower ISV program for small development shops on various web sites, including www.joelonsoftware.com and Microsoft's own partner site. You get Universal MSDN, Windows and Office with licences for 5 developers, all for $750 (also available in the UK, astonishingly enough). It looks like a spectacularly good deal at first, but you really do need to check the small print. Microsoft will tell you about the requirement to "make best effort" to achieve certification for your application(s) within one one year, but don't tell you about this until you're already part way through enrollment, and don't tell you about the costs involved in certification testing, at all.

Let's be clear about this : if you already have one of the specified certifications, then this article need not concern you... nothing to see here, move on, as the saying goes. So, what are the required certification options ? I'm glad you asked :

Microsoft Platform Software Tests
Microsoft® Windows® Server 2003 Verified for Microsoft® Windows® Server 2003
Certified for Windows® Server 2003
Microsoft® Windows® XP Verified for Windows® XP
Designed for Windows® XP Gold Testing
Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Verified Compatible for Microsoft® Windows® 2000
Certified for Microsoft® Windows® 2000
Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2000 Verified for Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2000
Certified for Windows® SQL Server™ 2000
SQL Data Warehouse Alliance Test
Microsoft® mobility platform (Microsoft® Windows® for Pocket PC, Microsoft® Windows® for Smartphone) Designed for Windows® for PocketPC
Designed for Windows® for Smartphone
Microsoft® .NET Web services .NET connected logo premium test
Microsoft® CRM Verified for Microsoft® CRM

Be warned. They can be very expensive to achieve. Even the lowest level of certification testing applicable to us at the time ("Verified for XP") for a single application in a single language would more than double the sticker price for the Empower ISV package. The prices for certification testing are shown on this page. Go off there and have a look. I'll wait here for you. When you return I'll have a stiff drink waiting, because you're going to need it....

members.microsoft.com/partner/isv/buildbiz/certification.aspx (opens in a new window)

Bear in mind that there's usually a 20% surcharge for each additional language you want certification in as well. Feel free to swear, I did.

So if your system is anything like ours (multiple platforms for server and client - possibly Datacenter server as well, multiple applications, in multiple languages), the costs of certification DWARF the savings you'd make in software licences. We'd buy their $750 dollar package and probably end up paying well in excess of $20,000 dollars for it.

Good deal ? NOT FOR ME, PAL.