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Friday, December 29, 2006

Did Microsoft Send My Free Laptop Yet?

I think is pretty public information at this point - but apparently Microsoft and AMD figured the best way to get bloggers to like Vista was to bribe them. In the interest of disclosure - I've been in touch with Edelman, the PR firm hired by Microsoft, in the past as well. They send me emails about launches and screenshots. I generally ignore them - but am perfectly glad to get game related news from a PR firm (they aren't alone there). I don't really know why they wouldn't send me a laptop worth more than $2,000 to get some positive remarks about Vista. I mean, what's a better way to solve my constant indecision about remaining a PC gamer than to just send me a new PC? It's so darn logical.

And apparently some of the more Microsoft leaning bloggers get to 'to meet Bill Gates, with all expenses paid' as well.

Surely, though, that's the kind of thing that Microsoft reserves for big things like Vista. Well, except the Zune as well. Surely they wouldn't do that thing just for say ... the Xbox? Should we care? It's not like sending review units or letting the media (in all its forms) get advance (and free) looks at products is a new thing. True, one PR firm jokingly said they were considering getting bloggers 360's because they were having slow adoption rates (and I'm sorry, Xbox fanboys - this wasn't tha tlong ago). And hey, if someone wants my honest opinion about Gears of War ... wouldn't I need a 360 to create it?

And really, Microsoft being such great buddies with the blogosphere would explain some odd phenomena on the web. So maybe the question isn't would they but how much are they.

Is it bribery to facilitate someone's ability to review something? Surely not. But I think the real question is - do we need to bother quibbling about the shades of grey here? OK, if Microsoft had sent some bloggers a $2,500 personal check with a note saying "wondering what you thought about Vista" ... most people would call that bribery. So if that check came in the form of a high end laptop - would that make it OK? Does "full disclosure" forgive all?

On the laptop thing alone ... let's ask the really pertinent questions. What does it say about Vista that Microsoft needs to send out brand spanking new "review" units to bloggers to get the word out? I gotta say - even if that blogger has the most splendiferous experience with the OS ... it doesn't say anything good. Compare it to this:

I spent about $700 on my Mac Mini. And OS X rocks. I mean - it rocks really hard. I have turned my PC on less and less because I have OS X and it didn't cost Apple a thing for me to say that. Today my PC sits lifeless and unplugged.

When it comes to bribery in general - I'm not really willing to nitpick the finer points. Hey, if someone sends me something big, fancy and expensive out of the blue ... I'm not likely to send it back. That's not because my opinion is up for sale - it's because I'm lazy. I barely muster the energy to send back a $100 rebate on $99 software. If it's asked, though, I use one simple rule:

Never take anything you aren't willing to send back. Not in an exchange for anything. Not in exchange for a blog post or plug or anything that might not even cost you a buck. Because the moment you make that swap you might want another swap like it. And that might cause you to pull your punches to stay on someone's gift list.

And you know it.

And we know it.

Everybody knows it.

As always, anyone from Edelman or Microsoft is free to peep up in defense or to make things more clear or discuss the matter. Yes, I know you folks still read the blog. And as my heavy use of strikethrough indicates at times, I'm always happy to revise statements if I've got my facts wrong.

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Andy said...

I found this whole incident kind of fascinating. I think what really muddied the waters here was how MS seemingly changed tack. At first these were 'presents' or 'gifts' and then were review units that were expected to be returned.

It isn't clear whether this was the intention all along, and the bloggers in question didn't read the fine print, or they changed their minds when they realised the negative connotations of a gift. If the former then this is a non-issue, but most evidence points to the latter which makes an issue.

Josh said...

I think the original message was "you can do with this as wish when you're done, send it back, sell it or keep it."

Which is about as nod and wink as you can get that you just got a free laptop. After the ballyhoo, they sent the followup which was, "just to clarify - we thought you'd send it back."

Yeah, if the intention all along was that nobody would keep these things - this is a different type of matter completely. I don't know if Edelman or Microsoft can make that clear now, horses out of the gate and all.

Josh said...

I guess Microsoft has amended their amendment. Any blogger who got a free laptop is welcome to keep it.

I read another slant on this - that this kind of um ... hardware giveaway plan is part of a push to try and get more people to blog positive about MS in general - to try and get on their swag list.