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Report: Nokia paying AT&T for exclusive employee use of the Lumia 900

We've heard numerous times that the Nokia Lumia 900 will be a "hero" device for AT&T, a term that is unfamiliar for many who are not in the business of smartphones. Here, the usage refers to AT&T promoting the Lumia 900 on the level of the Apple iPhone meaning we should expect a very intensive media campaign for the flagship Nokia device and it taking center stage on one of the largest carriers in the US.

One way to do that is to put the phone in the hands of those on the front lines -- the sales reps at the AT&T stores. More information has rolled in over the last few hours since we broke the April 9th street date for the 900. First, we know that the phones started arriving at AT&T stores over the last two days and that employee training on the Windows Phone OS (and this specific hardware) will take place on March 26th, April 6th and 7th at those outlets.

Next is the big news: AT&T has designated the Nokia Lumia 900 for 'Company Use' meaning all Front Seller employees are eligible to receive the phone at no cost. The trade off is though is that employees have to turn in their current 'Company Use' phones, namely the iPhone and certain Android devices.

You read that right: Nokia is paying, we hear up to $25 million, for AT&T employees to exclusively use the Lumia 900 instead of the iPhone and Android. Nokia is expecting more than 80% of employees to be using their flagship Windows Phone for participation in the CU program (employees can opt to use any phone they want at a discount, but CU phones are provided for free), which should go a long way in convincing those employees the merits of the OS, resulting in positive word of mouth and high sales.

So why is AT&T so keen on promoting Windows Phone, specifically the Nokia Lumia 900? Sure, there is money involved but in addition but we're told that the feeling at AT&T is that the company is trying to get away from being "the iPhone carrier" and are looking to differentiate their lineup from their competition. The Lumia 900 is a device they can get behind to do that -- not just because of the financial incentive, but because this phone represents a real chance for the fledgling OS to shine. That should sit well with many of you who are worried about the fate of Microsoft's mobile OS.

Oh and before we close out, we're also told that the HTC TITAN and Samsung Focus S are to be put on the End of Life (EOL) list, meaning their future availability will be phased out from current inventory without being replenished. (Well, there had to be some bad news, right?)

Tip: Rack up those Microsoft Points. Bing and IE users getting "Rewarded"

Editorial Note: Microsoft Points are going to be more and more important to you future Windows Phone 7 users, which is why you may want to pay attention to today's tip!

Even though Bing Cashback was cancelled a few months back (shame as it was a great program), Microsoft has returned with a new, similar program called Bing Rewards.  It's technically in "preview" right now but you can still sign up and begin racking up credits as an incentive for using Microsoft’s Bing “decision engine”.

Microsoft Credits can easily be earned just by using Bing for all your searching needs, setting Bing as your homepage, making use of the feature-rich related searches, or just exploring the daily image’s information hotspots. A total of 250 credits are thrown your way just for signing up for the program. The "credits" can then be exchanged for "rewards" or even better, Microsoft Points, which can then be used in the Zune/Xbox Marketplace (more on that below).

So is there a catch? Of course there is...

Read more after the jump as we try to make sense of Microsoft's latest Bing incentive program!