Some care adviced, but even so...
I have to concur that Microsoft as a company seems to be very friendly towards smaller companies, private developers and well; the public in general.
To be honest I only discovered their CodePlex website only last week and I was quite surprised. Especially since they allow you to put anything you want up there, you're not limited to Microsoft products alone. I quote: "projects can use any technology (e.g. any operating system or programming language).". Or what about the license, surely you need a Microsoft approved license here, right? Yes, and no... The accepted licenses are limited, as you can see here but still include the Apache License, GPL, LGPL, BSD, MIT and even Microsoft Public Licenses. And if you have something that isn't listed you can always contact them.
What also strikes me as solid are their licensing terms. All sites of this sort have many licensing terms to protect their own interests. Its a common. SourceForge: "All information, data, text, software, music, sound, photographs, graphics, video, messages, or any other materials whatsoever (collectively, “Content”), whether publicly posted or privately transmitted, is the sole responsibility of the person from whom such Content originated. This means that the user, and not Dice, is entirely responsible for all Content that he or she uploads, posts, emails or otherwise transmits via the Sites.".
But please picture my surprise to find this amongst the Codeplex licenses: "Microsoft does not claim ownership of the materials you provide to Microsoft (including feedback and suggestions regarding Codeplex or other Microsoft material posted on the site) or post, upload, input or submit to any Services or its associated services for review by the general public, or by the members of any public or private community, (each a "Submission" and collectively "Submissions")." (see here for the full document.
Most of these websites solely focus on relaying responsibility and making sure they can't be hold liable for actions taken by their users. Very few of them are so open and clear about who eventually owns the contents. Make no mistake here; in some situations this could be a big deal...
Of course there's more... We have the freely available Visual Studio products, their Express versions. I've been playing with the 2010 variants myself and although I'm no professional developer it surprises me how deep you could go. I made several PowerShell extensions by merely using C# Express 2010. You don't get as much "hand holding" (examples and such) as with the full version, but you can get things done.
Because I don't quite represent a big company I have to work with rather limited resources. As an example; my company "sits" on Server 2k3, due to hardware and cost restrictions. Even so; 2k3 performs perfectly for what I need it to do.
And what I then grew to respect and enjoy is that Microsoft still keeps full documentation for Server 2003 available. Most companies throw all the old stuff away because who needs them? People should stop whining and simply cough up and get with the program; only their latest stuff is supported. Not here.
Well, finally.. All good things aside I think the most important thing here is not to get carried away all of a sudden. Always remember that Microsoft is in the end still a company, and a company by definition wants your money over anything else. Also keep in mind where Microsoft currently stands on the global market. I'm pretty sure they're doing quite fine, but they still need all the happy customers they can get, because in some parts interest is fading, if not drastically declining.
Most of all they need to wise up here and there IMO, but that's a different story alltogether.