VMware announces its own award program: vExpert

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Microsoft launched its Most Valuable Program (MVP) a long time ago and recently updated it to include a Virtual Machine category.
Citrix has its own Citrix Technology Professional (CTP) program.

These programs are developed to influence the influencers, engaging them as much as possible with gifts, partial involvement with the company development teams, and more.

This kind of approach to reach the masses has several benefits.
First of all it keeps the influencer’s perception of the company as high as possible, in a way that, over time, he can move from an unbiased position to a slightly enthusiastic one.
Secondarily, it encourages the influencer to do a number of activities for free: testing and reviewing beta products, translating knowledgebase articles, maintaining support sites, speaking at conferences, etc.
The ultimate purpose of these programs anyway is to control, or at least influence, the way the influencer delivers a message about the company to his large audience. And most of times it works very well.

VMware is at a point in its history where having an award program similar to the Microsoft MVP and the Citrix CTP makes a lot of sense. So today John Troyer, Online Evangelist and Enterprise Community Builder at VMware, announces the creation of the vExpert award:

The VMware vExpert Awards will be given to individuals who have significantly contributed to the overall community of VMware users over the past year, either online or offline. You might be contributing online to blogs, forums, wikis, or other online sites. You might be organizing VMUG meetings or otherwise getting the word out to local IT professionals. You’re helping spread the word about virtualization and making people successful in deploying this game-changing technology. We want to thank you.

The initial investment of VMware in this initiative will be limited compared to what Microsoft does:

The VMware vExpert program will likely get talked about as “VMware’s MVP,” and while we’d like to acknowledge inspiration from Microsoft’s very successful program, please don’t compare them directly. Microsoft MVP has been going on for over a decade and includes a 4-day conference — and the vExpert won’t even get you a free ticket to VMworld! 🙂 Our first goal simply is to publicly thank you and acknowledge all the hard work you’ve been doing on behalf of virtualization and VMware. That being said, when you get this award you’ll be visible to various teams inside VMware and may be tapped to participate in various activities.

To find out the first vExperts of 2009 VMware prepared a nomination session that will be closed February 6th.
The awards will be announced at the end of February, so it’s even possible that there will be a public ceremony at VMworld Europe 2009.

Needless to say, there’s a number (here) of prominent (here) virtualization (here) bloggers (here) that is already pushing the readership to fill the damn form…

Update: Somebody already figured out to build a competing award program about virtualization: the vIdiot.
You may disagree on some nominations, but it’s worth a visit.