Microsoft has decided to give every one of its employees a free smartphone running Windows 7 Phone, which could put the reported 10,000 iPhone users at Redmond in a quandary: which handset to use?

The decision, which emerged from via the usual social media channels from the company's Microsoft Global Exchange (mgx) event, will see the estimated employee base of 93,000 people in 100 countries receive a handset from an un-named vendor.  

Vendors which have signed up to make handsets based on the new mobile PS, due for launch at the end of 2010, include Dell, HTC, Samsung, Asus and LG. At a speculative base price of $300 per unit, the bill could stretch to as much as $27 million.

Handing out so many handsets across so many countries also suggests that the new OS will be supported by a wide range of carriers, which bodes well for price competition. Apple, infamously, tied up exclusive exclusive deals when the iPhone first launched, which kept prices high and contract timescales long.

In March, a Wall Street Journal story claimed that as many as 10,000 Microsoft employees owned an iPhone, an uncomfortable if unconfirmed statistic that didn't escape the attention of CEO, Steve Ballmer. The paper also said that Microsoft had changed its reimbursement policy to ban handsets not running its own software.