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Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer earlier this year. (Microsoft photo)

Microsoft is holding its big employee meeting in Seattle this morning, bringing an estimated 15,500 people to KeyArena for annual event that feels like a giant pep rally.

The event this year comes in advance of several major product launches, including Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, the Microsoft Surface tablet and Halo 4 for the Xbox 360. Microsoft traditionally has held the event at Safeco Field, but shifted this year because KeyArena offered more flexibility and avoided the need to work around the Mariners’ schedule.

It’s closed to the public, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be news. This is the same event where, several years ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer “playfully”pretended to stomp on the iPhone of an employee who tried to take his picture with the Apple device.

Microsoft will live stream the event internally to employees around the world and others who aren’t able to attend. The company is offering shuttle service to the venue for employees and encouraging carpooling to minimize the impact on traffic.

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