In March of 2008, the Windows Embedded Group launched the SPARK Your Imagination program. This was the first hobbyist-focused program for the Windows Embedded product family. Before the SPARK program, the software cost $1000 per seat and you had to go through a distributor to get it. Not very friendly to weekend code warriors and hard to compete with free/Linux hobbyist software.
On Oct 27th (just a few weeks back), Microsoft launched a contest to bring attention to the SPARK program. The contest is entitled SPARKs Will Fly. It is based on the same concept as The Imagine Cup in that it is round-based and built around a theme; in this case the theme is â€œBuild the home of the future.â€ Microsoft will advance 50 people to Round 2 and give each of them a VIA Pico-ITX Artigo board ($500 worth of kit) to develop their idea. Microsoft will select 3 finalist from this 50. Theyâ€™ll compete on stage at ESC Silicon Valley 2009 for the top prize. The winner takes home $15,000. Check it out, I hope a Maker wins!