Exactly how far will Microsoft go to generate buzz about its new Windows Phone 7 platform? That question was answered last night, when CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage at a developer event and said each and every one of his company's 89,000 employees will be received a Windows Phone 7 handset for free.
It's a move that will cost millions of dollars and take away a whole bunch of potential sales from paying customers. But Microsoft hopes it will have a viral effect, energizing its own internal team first and letting them go out and show off the tech to all their friends.
Ballmer excitedly made the announcement at this week's Microsoft Professional Developers Conference. He initially said all attendees to the event, which consists of several hundred non-MS employees, would receive a phone for free. He then went on to make the much bigger company-wide declaration.
The announcement confirms a report from some months ago when an allegedly leaked internal e-mail was discussing the plan to dole out phones to all of the company's employees.
In an interview with Networkworld.com, Windows Phone 7 exec Guy Gilbert said "a lot" of Microsoft employees currently already have a Windows Mobile device as their primary cell phone. But this is a way to get everyone on board. "Everybody's very excited about the fact that they're going to get a Windows Phone 7," said Gilbert.
Previous Windows Mobile-based devices did okay in the market, but the platform has been absolutely buried in the excitement that has surrounded Android and the iPhone. Microsoft was never able to build the Windows Mobile brand into something with name recognition; the company focused more on getting strategic partnerships with manufacturers and mobile providers, and let them market the phones.
In the previous generation, consumers sought out Motorola phones, or GPS phones, or some other spec irregardless of the OS. Now, consumers are seeking out Android phones, regardless of the manufacturer. Microsoft has shifted its mobile strategy to fit that new market mindset.
Windows Phone 7 will launch in the US on November 8.