Why Did Microsoft Really Give Free Phones to Employees?

Microsoft's employees can tell you: There ain't no such thing as a free Windows Phone 7. So what's the deal with Steve Ballmer's vassals getting Windows Phone 7 handsets? According to an official letter, there are two important reasons.

The first one is the need to get the word out. 93,000 employees are a lot of people. If they are able to impress clients, family, friends, and random strangers, they may start a word of mouth effect that could be crucial for the success of the phone against Apple and Google. That's why, in a letter to all Microsoft employees, their mobile big honcho Andy Lees told them the following:

When you get your phone, the first thing you can do is MAKE IT PERSONAL! Pick up the phone, turn it on, download mail, get directions, make calls, find friends…. In short USE IT! [...] There is also a lot you can do while we are heading to launch even before you get your phone including: Understand the unique value of Windows Phone 7 and evangelize to your customers, partners, friends and family!

But evangelizing is only part of it. The other good reason is getting apps to compete with the massive App Store and the Android Market. As pronto as possible. That's why Andy Lees also addresses this need and wants Microsoft's software engineers to create their own applications in their free time:

The package includes everything you need to start building apps. In addition, we've introduced a new employee developer program which makes it much easier for you to develop apps for Marketplace in your spare time. And if you need some help jumpstarting your development, check out the Windows Phone Developer Training Kit.

Indeed, this is not going to be a free lunch. But I am sure that most Microsoft employees won't care about following these suggested tasks. In fact, I bet that most of them would be enthusiastic to grab the new phone and start having some fun with it instead of having to use products from the competition. And perhaps show the Apple boys and girls that they are not the only game in town anymore. [Techflash]

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