No one can predict how the new devices powered by Microsoft Windows Phone 7 will sell when they hit the market next week. But the software giant can be sure that at least 89,000 of the smartphones made by HTC and Samsung will be quickly activated. The company is giving them away to all its employees.
While that number of users is too small to have much of an impact on the analytics of major web sites and industry trackers who keep tabs on smartphone traffic, it will quickly get the phones on the street and in the eyes of consumers in time for the holiday shopping season.
“The first step toward getting the word out is naturally to give it out internally,” said analyst Gerry Purdy of MobilTrax. “When you think about it, each person could show the phone to at least 10 people. Before you know it, almost a million people have seen it as a result.”
Google and Apple have also given out their smartphones to employees, and Purdy said Research In Motion often gives free BlackBerry devices to analysts.
Microsoft’s emphasis on brand loyalty was clear last week when Linda Gates, wife of cofounder and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, told The New York Times there are no products from rival Apple in their home, and her kids have been denied iPods. “You may have a Zune,” she said she told them.
Microsoft didn’t immediately return our calls for comment about which smartphones are being offered to employees and whether service will also be comped. News of the freebies came after CEO Steve Ballmer told the company’s Professional Developers Conference on Thursday that he believes the company can rebound from its stumbling efforts to enter the smartphone market, where its devices lag behind those powered by Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, RIM’s…