I find all this slightly bizzare - are they winding up the partner program? If not what is the incentive for designers to sign up for the partner program when they are giving this lot away for free?
To date, Microsoft hasn't been able to crack the Adobe CS and F/OSS dominance of web development. So I think they're repeating a strategy similar to what they employed to burn Novell when they introduced NT in the server market - i.e. basically give their software away in order to establish a beachhead - then lower the boom on pricing once the competition has been eliminated.
I think what they may also be doing is expanding
the partner program to make it all encompassing.
Microsoft is moving away from standalone software and physical media for most of it's users, preferring them to migrate to its cloud-hosted product offerings. Most of their major corporate customers are already under license subscription/maintenance contracts. And the serious Windows devs are already in MSDN.
So what I think we're we're seeing here is an attempt to corral the hitherto elusive herd of web developers.
From some of what I'm sensing (from this and other things) I get the feeling that the time is coming where the only way to get your hands on non-cloud Microsoft software will be if you are
under some sort of partnership agreement with them. Free Software from Microsoft.
Oh well!...Time will tell.