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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Laptops For Vista Bloggers Debate Continues

Interesting take from Dave Taylor:

Let me be direct: There is no ethical issue associated with a vendor giving product to thought and opinion leaders in a marketplace.

In fact, the ethical firestorm is trivially solved by something we've all talked about before, the idea of a blogger disclosure best practices agreement that we subscribe to collectively. [see my earlier articles pay me to blog and Edelman screws up, for example] If I had received a laptop, all I have to do is say "hey, got a laptop and here's what I found..."
-- Vista laptops for bloggers furor misses the real story

I'll get back to that in a minute. Here's what next:

hink about this: Microsoft dropped about $1500/laptop * 90 laptops + shipping (my rough estimate puts that at a little less than $150,000) to get some positive digital ink. That's a fairly expensive campaign for the blogosphere, and by comparison if we assume that their boxed Vista product costs them about $20/unit, that same $150,000 could have been spent on seeding Vista to about 7500 bloggers.

Microsoft and Edelman didn't send out boxes with the OS DVD, though, did they?

And so, the question that I'm amazed that no blogger seems to have asked is why didn't they send out the OS and let us install it on our own computers?

The answer, once you think about things this way, is obvious, and that's the real story here:

Microsoft Vista is in fact a bear to install and has prohibitive hardware requirements.
-- Vista laptops for bloggers furor misses the real story

Well, that point wasn't lost on me. And the laptops cost more than $2,000 a pop, not $1,500. So I not only agree, but raise it a little. Why wasn't Microsoft willing to let people review Vista on more generic laptops? Truth is, outside of the ethical problem, this just makes Vista look bad for people not willing drop a couple grand on a new piece of hardware.

But I don't think we can dismiss the ethical issue. I don't think disclosure simply whisks it away. If your congressman said, "Hey, I just got $50,000 from these guys and now I have to go vote" ... would your response be "Oh. At least you told me."? Disclosure just allows us oversight into the process - it's not a blank check to dismiss everything that is disclosed.

Let me put this into a comparable gaming analogy. Microsoft sends me a $2,000 gaming rig with Halo Adventures Or The Like pre-loaded on the box. I write a semi-positive review of the game. When I'm done with the game, I get to keep it. Here's the problems with that scenario:

1) It's MS's hardware and software. They got to do all kinds of tweaking and testing to make sure that the game would fly on the box. I didn't have to worry about installation, driver incompabilities or other common issues.

2) Since MS would assuredly use the recommended specs and could tweak it - I couldn't guarantee what the performance would be like in a real world scenario.

3) People like getting expensive things. And they like to keep getting them. $2,000 is an expensive gift for anyone. Could you be certain that even a semi-positive review wasn't skewed by this? Heck, the gamesphere has had this debate on just software alone. If I had to send the rig back, it might not be as bad - but getting swag like that makes anyone blush.

If this scenario happened - would you trust me as a blogger?

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