I've been working hard to develop a strong Microsoft-based offering for startups building SaaS companies, because the economics are with LAMP right now. In listening to startup engineering managers and business managers (i.e. VP Engineering and CEOs) I consistently hear the following:
1) Speed of development is important (hence PHP and Ruby on Rails, although I hear some say they're happy with the agility of ASP.NET).
2) Operations cost rules all (scale-out includes many instances of the OS, App Server, DB, etc., not to mention virtualization).
With partnership from Doug Pratt (who runs the Empower program which is designed to meet the needs of startups - and given the 15,000 enrollees who have gotten development licenses to every piece of software we make ("back the truck up") for $375, I think we can say it was a good offer for ISVs) I've been able to learn a lot about our licensing and pricing issues relative to SaaS companies.
Unfortunately it is far short of what SaaS startups need - first of all, they need permission to run the software as a service, which is prohibited under the Empower agreement, and second, they need to be able to scale out without paying more. The Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) is a usage-based pricing model for Microsoft infrastructure which is a closer fit to the SaaS model (has per-user and per-CPU modes of billing) developed by the Microsoft Comm Sector Hosting team. They have also built out a hosting solution and we've seen ISVs like Vertafore use it to lower their costs & scale faster.
Shannon Clark writes about this in response to Robert Scoble's list of Web 2.0 entrepreurs' complaints he heard during his "two days in the Valley."
So what if we launched a SaaS Empower program that included architectural guidance on how to build multitenant applications on .NET, had a slew of free runtime/production licenses for our server software, and connected you to a SaaS Marketplace or Solution Finder on Microsoft.com? Would that be enough to move you to use the Windows stack? What if we included Provisioning, Metering, and Billing engines (to be run by you, not us)?
The complaints department is open.