89,000 Microsoft employees will get a Windows Phone 7 handset

Steve Ballmer gives phones to every PDC attendee, and every Microsoft employee

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer enthusiastically announced Thursday that all attendees of Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference will receive a new Windows Phone 7 device. 

But that's only about 1,000 phones Microsoft is giving away. Much more impressive, and expensive, is the fact that Microsoft apparently plans to issue a new WP7 phone to all 89,000 of its employees, and would presumably be paying for those costly monthly data plans too. (PDC-attending developers who receive a free phone have to arrange for their own data plans).

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"Every Microsoft employee will be getting a Windows Phone 7 phone," says Guy Gilbert, one of two Windows Phone executives I interviewed at PDC earlier this week. 

Gilbert and his colleague, Paul Bryan, acknowledged that Windows Mobile 6.5 and other previous versions of Windows mobile OS had some serious problems that hampered Microsoft's attempts to gain market share. Even among Microsoft employees, not everyone had a Windows Mobile 6.5 device. 

When asked if every Microsoft employee uses a Windows-based phone, Gilbert said "I wouldn't go so far as to say that. But a lot of people use Windows phones, prior or current. Everybody's very excited about the fact that they're going to get a Windows Phone 7."

News of this move first came several months ago when a leaked internal email from Microsoft mobile president Andrew Lees informed Microsoft employees that they'd be receiving a new phone. 

Do those Microsoft employees with non-Windows phones use BlackBerries, Androids, or iPhones? Gilbert did not say. The Nexus404.com blog says that Microsoft employees supposedly hide their iPhones when Ballmer and other executives come trotting around. Microsoft employees even held a mock funeral to signal the impending death of Apple's iPhone.

While the U.S. launch of Windows Phone 7 is still a week or so away, Bryan has been using a prototype WP7 device as his main phone for months, he says. Bryan actually carries around two development phones - one for personal use and one for giving demonstrations. After the U.S. launch, Bryan will replace his development device with a production phone, he said.

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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