After the death of TechNet subscriptions in July of last year, many IT Pros were left with only a couple options for obtaining the necessary application bits for testing Microsoft products in their labs. Of course, Microsoft suggested other solutions, but they were all a slap in the face to loyal IT Pros.

Then, things got worse as Microsoft announced that changes were coming to the Microsoft Action Pack subscription. MAPS was one of the alternatives left for IT Pros who were also part of the Microsoft Partner Network. There was worry that the changes to MAPS would make it as unusable as the TechNet subscription replacements Microsoft continues to promote.

Microsoft has now announced what the next version of MAPS will look like, and it's not that bad. Obviously, the new subscription follows Microsoft's company direction and is Cloud-heavy, but from the looks of it, this could turn into a valuable option for those who need product to test before selling to customers.

Here's what the new MAPS (releasing on February 24, 2014) contains:

  • Internal-use Microsoft software licenses to support up to a 10-person organization, deployed through Microsoft Cloud Services or on-premises software
  • Access to online and telephone support for presales, technical and deployment issues
  • Developer tools, including Visual Studio and MSDN subscriptions, to support development across Microsoft platforms — desktop, phone, server and Web
  • Bing Ads credits for to market products, services and solutions

The Action Pack subscription will cost $475 US. To subscribe to the MAPS, you must be a Registered Member of the Microsoft Partner Network and pass an assessment.

There's additional guidance for current subscribers, renewing subscribers, and new subscribers described on the Partner Network blog HERE.