Does Amazon Web Services need to court startups?

That's the question about its new AWS Activate program that helps startups get on board

Amazon Web Services this morning unveiled a new program designed to make it easier for startups to use the compute services.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Except, aren’t startups already the primary users of AWS? I can think of a couple of reasons why Amazon might roll out a service like this.

AWS doesn’t say how many of its customers are startups and how many are large enterprises. But for a long time the assumption has been that most of its customers are startups. Partly, that’s because new companies have the clearest business case for using services like AWS. Funders aren’t interested in offering the kind of cash required to build data centers to support a new and risky business. A pay-as-you-go service is the best option for new businesses.

Also, they don’t have legacy applications that don’t port well to the cloud. Startups are using the latest technologies which tend to be compatible with cloud services.

As AWS began offering new services aimed at enterprises, it reinforced the suggestion that the bulk of its customers were startups. The thinking was that AWS needed to score the enterprise market since it’s bigger and more lucrative than the startup universe.

In announcing the new program, CTO Werner Vogels named some popular startups that are AWS customers, like Instagram, Spotify, Pinterest, DropBox, and AirBnB.

But AWS didn’t stop with just a blog post from Vogels. It also issued a press release about the new program.

If the bulk of AWS users are already startups, why make such a big deal about this program? I can guess at a couple of reasons.

It’s possible that new signups are waning and AWS is trying to drum up more business from its traditional base. With big names like Google and Microsoft as well as a host of other competitors now offering compute services, maybe AWS is losing out on some deals.

Or, the reason could be a lot more innocuous. AWS is constantly adding new offerings and programs. Perhaps it realized it could do a better job offering some hand holding to new companies and so decided to put together a program to do so. It’s not a bad idea for a business to cater to its strongest customer base.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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