Delegates attending Microsoft's premier conference this year will take home more than an insight into new technology - the software giant will give them each a netbook.
Microsoft Australia said that as many as 2300 delegates to its annual TechEd conference on the Gold Coast will get a HP Mini 2140
It has a 1.6GHz Atom processor, 160GB hard drive and a 10.1-inch screen. LIke all netwbooks, it has a slightly smaller keyboard than a full-sized notebook.
The maker of the world's most used operating system will install trial and sample versions of software on the devices for use by delegates who will also get free access to a Wi-Fi network at the event.
The netbook's lower-capacity, three-cell battery was among the logistics Microsoft is nutting out.
"Recharging stations are going to be the key," said Microsoft's technical audience lead Ben English.
"We hope that 2300 machines will be used actively throughout the event [but] the battery life is around the three-hour mark."
English declined to reveal details of the commercial negotiations between Microsoft and HP.
But he said HP was a "logical" supplier given its long involvement in the network that runs TechEd.
In a departure from previous years, the prized TechEd bag was downgraded. "It won't be the same high-spec model as last year but it's still a nice bag," English said.
"Our feeling [about the gift] this year is that we wanted to do something different and celebrate the Windows 7 launch, so we came up with the idea of giving away a netbook."
The aim is to give delegates a chance to evaluate a "large Windows 7 network deployment first-hand while gaining valuable knowledge about the new Windows operating system", he said.
But he knew some of those attending, particularly those in government, were unable to accept the gifts due to department policies.
They had the option to donate their netbooks to a charity supported by Microsoft.
"They'll have the opportunity to take loan of the machine to participate in the TechEd demonstration environment and then to donate them and make a further impact on people's lives," English said.
English expected most delegates would keep the netbook: "I don't think we're going to have too many given back to us".
And he said Microsoft was in discussions with vendors to install their software on the machines.
He flagged a preview of Office 10 and XP virtualisation mode - which enables a dual-boot configuration for the machine - but said no decisions were made.
Another idea included the world's largest use of Photosynth, the Microsoft collaborative, three-dimensional photograph technology based on its Silverlight multimedia platform for the web. This would involve users taking a photo of themselves with the netbook camera and submitting it wirelessly to build a real-time digital collage.
"The sessions are going to be very interactive," English said. "It's a good year to attend TechEd."
"Technical Education" or TechEd is at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, 8 - 11 September.