Personal use versions of serious software

I've said for a long time that we need to have ways for individuals to use / play with serious commercial software, without having to pay the price that corporations have to pay to use it.

Charlie Kindel's blog is a perfect example of this. Here he talks about a home server that he bought for $503 - but he's using Windows Server 2003 on it, which as far as I can tell, costs more than this entire server does.

Some companies offer free personal-use versions of their software. This is great! I wish more companies would do this - but the danger is that many small companies will take the software and use it without paying for it. A large company can afford to do this, but a smaller company may not be able to.

Other companies offer stripped-down home versions of their products. Usually, this is just frustrating, because often the most interesting features are the ones they leave out. Microsoft Works is an example of a home product that's a pretty good compromise - it does what most individuals need without the big $$ of Microsoft Office.

Do you have a server at home? Do you have a router? Do you have a wireless LAN? That's as much infrastructure as most small companies have.

An MSDN subscription is an awesome way for a company to get access to a huge variety of Microsoft technologies for a reasonable amount of money (~$1k/year). But that's way too much for a home user.

What I'd love to see is an 'MSDN Personal' for the computer hobbyist.