microsoft4.jpgSoftware giant Microsoft is upping its offensive to convince start-ups to adopt its platform.

Today Microsoft said it has backed 30 more young, promising technology companies, lavishing them with software and marketing help in order to demonstrate that its .Net platform and other Microsoft’s tools are superior to other platforms. It comes at a time when open source technologies, such as the LAMP stack, have become increasingly popular among start-up companies (see our coverage of this phenom). Some of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies have not used Microsoft’s infrastructure. Google, meanwhile, is increasingly a threat, offering its own office applications to companies for prices that are much cheaper than Microsoft’s Office.

Microsoft says it now supports a total of 50 companies (see left column) with services valued in the millions of dollars each. It says it plans to back 50 more companies within six months.

Dan’l Lewin, Microsoft’s executive in Silicon Valley, and leader of the program, said Microsoft stops short of writing checks to invest in the companies.

The seed of program began about seven years ago, when Microsoft hired Lewin to become its Silicon Valley ambassador in 2001 to court local companies — many of which had become suspicious of, even hostile to the predatory software giant in Redmond.

Lewin showered attention on start-ups that include Sling, PolyServe and MySpace. MySpace runs on a .Net infrastructure to this day. Lewin likes to talk about PolyServe, too, because that company started on Linux, but defected to Windows.

Then, in October of last year, Microsoft formalized its effort, launching something called the Microsoft Startup Accelerator Program. The program selects the best start-up companies it can find, providing them with Microsoft development tools, Windows servers and other products and services (these range from support with the Windows mobile operating system, to advertising help through Live/MSN), and even leaning on its partners to help the companies get to market.
More recently, it backed Berkeley, Calif.-based StoreXperience Inc., a mobile-shopping application that turns a mobile phone into a shopping assistant by creating interactive bar codes on products that can offer you discounts.