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Originally published September 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 18, 2008 at 12:09 PM

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Rainn Wilson to emcee Microsoft's annual meeting

About 23,000 Microsoft employees have registered to attend the annual company meeting today at Safeco Field, where Rainn Wilson, star of "The Office," will serve as emcee.

Seattle Times technology reporter

About 23,000 Microsoft employees have registered to attend the annual company meeting today at Safeco Field, where Rainn Wilson, star of "The Office," will serve as emcee.

Some employees had been expecting comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who is starring in Microsoft's high-profile Windows ad campaign, along with co-founder and Chairman Bill Gates.

Gates will not be attending the annual employee meeting, either, Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said, noting his transition away from day-to-day involvement with the company earlier this summer.

Microsoft is expecting one of the largest crowds in recent years for the event — which is closed to the public — perhaps because of Wilson's appearance: The actor went to Shorecrest High School and received a drama degree from University of Washington in 1986.

"We were told the host would be 'comedic,' " an employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said in an e-mail, "so [Seinfeld] was the natural assumption, but Wilson, I think, will be a much more enjoyable emcee. ... [T]he Rainn carrot is enticing some of my co-workers to now go to the meeting."

The company also continues to grow, with a local work force of 39,311 as of June 30.

Gellos said Microsoft is taking pains to minimize the traffic impact of the meeting. A fleet of 212 buses will begin ferrying employees from Redmond at 9:30 a.m. in advance of the 11 a.m. start.

CEO Steve Ballmer and other executives are scheduled to speak during the meeting, which typically includes product demonstrations and updates on company strategy.

It is scheduled to end at 3 p.m. — shorter than in previous years, in part, to avoid rush hour, Gellos said.

Microsoft is conducting a food drive at the event to support Northwest Harvest and the Food Lifeline, agencies that are straining under the pressure of higher fuel prices and the slowing economy, Gellos said.

Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or bromano@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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