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Microsoft recruits bloggers to preview Longhorn

Online evangelists to help boost new OS's profile

Revving its Longhorn marketing engine, Microsoft is forming a team of bloggers who will get early access to prereleases of the operating system and will be asked to review the Windows XP successor.

Microsoft Longhorn Evangelist and blogger Robert Scoble on Sunday started soliciting nominations for "Team 99" on Microsoft's Channel 9 website for developers. The team is named after the highway that leads into Whistler, British Columbia, where the future operating system's namesake Longhorn Saloon is located.

While not billed as a beta or early adopter group, Team 99 members will be asked to provide Microsoft feedback on Longhorn. "They'll tell us where we're screwing up, what we're doing well, and will be the world's top authorities on Longhorn," Scoble said.

Word of the Team 99 initiative comes as Microsoft has started talking up Longhorn again. Last week the software maker released a pre-beta version of the Windows XP successor for the hardware community and earlier in April the company's Windows Chief Jim Allchin went on a media tour to promote the operating system.

Soliciting the help of bloggers to evangelise Longhorn is one of Microsoft's new strategies for educating the developer community, said Michael Cherry, a lead analyst at Directions on Microsoft.

"Microsoft in the last little while has been working very hard looking at alternative methods of getting out information to developers. This is to me just another attempt," he said. "Hopefully the bloggers will be people who can look at Longhorn and assess its feature set in their particular interest and communicate about it."

Longhorn is slated to be widely available by the end of next year. A first official beta version, meant for software developers, is due by the end of June. A second beta, meant for IT professionals, is also planned, but Microsoft has not given a timeframe for that version. A second Longhorn-themed Professional Developers Conference is scheduled for September.


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