Wanted: Pro-Longhorn Bloggers, Says Microsoft

Microsoft is on the hunt for 20 volunteer bloggers to help it hype Longhorn, the upcoming version of its Windows operating system. “Team 99” will be made up of Longhorn enthusiasts nominated by Microsoft community members, according to a company employee.

“Microsoft can’t deal with millions of people all at once,” Microsoft employee Robert Scoble wrote on his blog, which is monitored by Microsoft workers and watchers alike. “It’s impossible to listen to that loud a crowd.”

Beta Release Looming

Microsoft plans to release a beta version of Longhorn this summer, with improved graphics that support see-through windows, better ways to visualizedata, more sensible file organization and faster searching.

As an added security measure, Longhorn will also use cryptographic keys in silicon chips rather than storing them as data on a hard drive. The fullversion of the product is scheduled to be released in late 2006, leaving plenty of time for end user feedback.

Scoble said the software giant wants the bloggers to “tell us where we’re screwing up, what we’re doing well.” Apparently, Microsoft also wants the bloggers to keep a few trade secrets in the blogging process.

Keeping Secrets

Besides enthusiasm and blogger credibility, the volunteer job description includes trustworthiness. Microsoft will ask Team 99 members to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements.

Thus, while the bloggers are expected to evangelize Longhorn, they also have to be careful about what they say.

That’s just one aspect of the program Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox doesn’t like.

Wilcox told TechNewsWorld that the bloggers may indeed be genuinely enthusiastic about Longhorn, but that’s just the problem.

“If Microsoft hand picks the bloggers, then in a sense it’s really Microsoft trying to control the message,” Wilcox said. “Microsoft can’t control the media, but maybe it can control the message through blogging.”

Genuine Enthusiasm

Analysts said commercial interest in blogging is rising as companies begin to view the blogosphere as a medium for viral marketing. Indeed, blogreadership jumped 58 percent last year, according to a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey.

Despite the the growing popularity — and influence — of bloggers, Wilcox does not see Team 99 as the most effective way to generate enthusiasm about Longhorn. Microsoft has already developed an end user program that is genuinely enthusiastic — and that represents a much larger community, he said.

“Microsoft would be much better off reengaging its end user community,” he said. “The enthusiasm would be very natural, assuming they like what they see, and they are more natural influencers of purchases.”

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