In its boldest effort yet to win over emerging businesses, Microsoft is launching a new program that will allow some start-ups to use its server software free of charge for up to three years. Dubbed BizSpark, the project is open to private companies around the world that are less than 3 years old and make less than $1 million in annual revenue.

Under the program, qualified startups will not only receive a range of Microsoft products, from Visual Studio to Windows Server, SQL Server and others, but they’ll also gain access to the company’s technical support team and powerful public relations machine.

This is certainly great news for start-ups and, of course, also gives Microsoft a way to promote the use of its software at a time when open-source alternatives continue to gain traction, and rivals such as Google and others are promoting their cloud platforms for building web applications.

There are no upfront costs for participants. However, they will be required to pay a $100 program fee once they “graduate” from the program (being acquired or surpassing the revenue limit) or at the end of the three years, and then transition to the normal licensing fees for the software they continue to use.