Santa Ballmer? Steve Claus? Neither nickname has a great ring to it, but Microsoft’s CEO definitely deserves something similar this holiday season. Network World confirmed Thursday that Microsoft will be handing out free Windows Phone 7 devices to each and every company employee — that’s about 89,000 phones. Add to that another 1,000 free WP7 handsets that will be passed out to Microsoft’s Professional Developer Conference attendees, and you’ve got quite an expense (likely over $20 million) that the Redmond giant is swallowing. You can’t put a price on publicity, however, and 90,000 free phones translates into a pretty huge amount of chatter. This is all well and good, but let’s hope the sizable stunt also ends up moving some product.

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Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than a decade, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.