Microsoft addresses TechEd 'netbook-gate'

Microsoft's Tech Ed, beginning September 14, is easily New Zealand's largest conference. Last year, the Sky City Convention Centre's cavernous main hall was too small to accommodate all of those wanting to watch keynotes.

This recessionary year, there's a special offer for people who buy tickets: the opportunity to buy an HP Mini 5101 netbook, including Windows 7 Ultimate and Microsoft Office 2010 (yup, as in the future versions of each bit of software) for just $699. The offer is limited to 500 units.

The HP Mini 5101 usually seels for $1,099, so it's a great deal, right?

Not so much when you look at the Gold Coast leg of TechEd, beginning September 8, where 2,300 attendees are set to each go away with a free HP Mini 2140 netbook (pictured), which sells for around $1000 - a $2 million hardware giveaway.

When NBR first raised this issue, Microsoft New Zealand’s Scott Wylie explained:

“Microsoft TechEd’s are held around the world, but are independent events in each country. We took the approach that in tough times our first priority was to keep ticket prices as low as possible (we’ve reduced the individual price this year) - while maintaining the TechEd experience people have come to expect from the event.”

But yesterday's netbook offer - which would make an attendee a nett $1699 worse off than an Aussie compatriot if they took it up - does seem to be rubbing salt into the wounds.

A rep for Microsoft NZ explains:

"Tech Ed Australia ticket prices are significantly higher than Tech Ed New Zealand ticket prices when converted to $NZ (for example, standard individual registration = approx $2,480 in Australia, $1,800 in NZ).

"While Microsoft NZ is not offering a complimentary netbook to every TechEd NZ delegate, there will be a significant number of netbooks offered as prizes at Tech Ed NZ this year."

At the Australian TechEd, delegates will be encouraged to use their netbook straightaway, the better to live demo Windows 7’s networking ability.

Attendees at both conferences can also expect a preview of the new version of Office, which will be able to run editable versions of Word and Excel files inside a web browser; an in-depth look at Windows 7’s Virtual XP mode; and the chance to participate in a huge Photosyth 3D collage.

The netbook focus initially emerged in reaction to Acer's plans to launch a netbook based on Google's Android operating system (OS) software in October (the same month that Windows 7 is due for official release).

However, Acer has now delayed its Android launch, which would have made it the first A-list PC maker to release a laptop running Android rather than Windows (Dell and HP are also running trials with Android). However, it seems more likely that Acer is now holding out for Google's more full-blooded PC operating system, Chrome OS, rather than abandoning its adventures beyond Microsoft.

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