Microsoft followed in Apple's steps today by promising all employees a free smartphone at its Global Exchange meeting. The move would give as many as 90,000 staffers a Windows Phone 7 device when the first ones ship sometime before the holiday. The company didn't say which company would supply the phones or if it would require that users switch over when at work.
The approach almost exactly mirrors that taken by Apple in 2007. Shortly before it launched the original iPhone, it promised all of its full-time employees a free iPhone to get employees familiar with the platform and reward them for the launch. Microsoft's primary aims are likely the same.
For Microsoft, though, the handouts may also be an attempt to drive out competitors' devices. Until now, it has encouraged workers to carry Windows Mobile devices but has seen many choose to carry an Android, BlackBerry or iPhone instead; the company's well-known Xbox Live Director of Programming, Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb, uses an iPhone. Microsoft has tried similar things in the past when its products compete with others, such as an iPod amnesty bin, with limited success.