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Microsoft

Microsoft Bribing Bloggers With Laptops 308

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hey-where's-mine dept.
Slinky writes "According to at least six bloggers, Microsoft has been sending out free top-of-the-line laptops pre-loaded with Vista as a 'no strings attached gifts'. This 'reward' for their hard work on covering tech in general is coincidentally right before the launch of Vista to consumers. To be clear, these weren't loans, they were gifts, and they were top-of-the-line Acer Ferrari laptops. Microsoft blogger Long Zheng broke the silence over the source of the freebies."
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Microsoft Bribing Bloggers With Laptops

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  • top of the line? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spotter (5662) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:15PM (#17377300)
    Since when is an "Acer Ferari" laptop a top of the line laptop. There are really only 2 types of top of the line laptops. One is an Apple MacBook Pro and its understandable why Microsoft wouldn't give that out. The other is the Thinkpad. No other PC laptop comes close to the thinkpad. Though its too bad they don't make a 15" 1600x1200 model anymore.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:19PM (#17377372) Journal
    Politics, business, anything where money is involved has included bribes for about... well, since the inception of bribery... unless we are collecting a list of things MS is doing to be less than moral, or ethical, how is this news?
  • by mccalli (323026) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:20PM (#17377390) Homepage
    From the summary:
    According to at least six bloggers, Microsoft has been sending out free top-of-the-line laptops pre-loaded with Vista as a 'no strings attached gifts'.

    To me, that's a gift not a bribe. I can't remember the specifics, but I'm sure Apple did something similar a while ago. They're saying "thanks for the coverage", and that's that.

    I'm happy over here with my OS X machines with Linux installs on the server side, and I still can't see a reason to be going after Microsoft for this. They got coverage, and they said thanks.

    Cheers,
    Ian
  • by justthinkit (954982) <floyd@just-think-it.com> on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:21PM (#17377408) Homepage Journal
    I have owned (still do) and loved a Thinkpad, but I have also found my HP 1440x900 3gHz laptop to be exceptional as well. And if I may step into a time machine for a second, the gray-black AC-only Toshiba 80386 laptops were perfect. I saw them everywhere and they never died -- I even crammed Windows 95 on a 5MB model, whose color screen alone was a $1,000 option.

    There have been some great laptops -- even the Compaq luggables were good -- but I agree that few will get fired for buying a Thinkpad.
  • Disclosure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:23PM (#17377450) Homepage Journal
    I don't see this as too big a deal. What's far worse is bloggers who don't disclose the fact they got the gift in any related blog posts. Bloggers aren't expected to have any standards, but those that disclose this important information when blogging about Vista gain credibility.
  • by brennanw (5761) * on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:25PM (#17377476) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft chooses to send laptops to a select number of bloggers who are inclined to review them favorably anyway.

    Maybe one or two out of that number don't write straight-down-the-line praises of microsoft products. Most, however, find their enthusiasm for Microsoft somewhat re-enforced by the arrival of a beautiful, beautiful machine. And the bloggers don't write cood Microsoft copy because they have to. They do it because they want to.

    As far as I can tell there's nothing grossly unethical about it. It's not like Microsoft is paying anyone to write anything they don't already write. But for want of a better word, 'bribery' still works.

    But my hat is off to Microsoft anyway. It's just... brilliant. Damn them. Brilliant.
  • I'm confused (Score:1, Insightful)

    by silentounce (1004459) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:30PM (#17377548) Homepage
    How is this in the least bit immoral? Really, and don't give me any BS about a bribe, or that it is incentive to speak good about MS. If someone blogs about how great MS is in order to receive a laptop that's on their morals and ethics, not MS's. I'm seriously having a hard time seeing how this is immoral.
  • by abscissa (136568) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:39PM (#17377662)
    Hey, if you can get a first post on Slashdot, you deserve a free laptop!
  • by darthservo (942083) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:51PM (#17377854)
    I felt the same way when I read "Acer" and "top-of-the-line" in the same sentence, but not used in contrast.

    Each Acer I've ever had experience with (mostly tablets, but some laptops) has reaffirmed that I will definitely not be purchasing one. They're awful. Of course "top-of-the-line" is probably just referring to Acer's top shelf product, which in my opinion doesn't have much going for it. While I personally haven't used the Ferrari line, I can't imagine they'd be much better - adding an exotic car mfg's logo to a laptop doesn't give it an edge.

    Had I received such a 'present' from MS, I would have tried selling it off for a down payment on a nice ASUS laptop.

  • by Professor_UNIX (867045) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:53PM (#17377888)
    No different from record labels sending promos to music journalists, or game companies sending software to reviewers. How is this "bribing?"
    Sending them a 30-day trial of Vista to evaluate is one thing, sending them a very expensive laptop preloaded with Vista is quite another. It'd be like record labels sending journalists a free 80 gig iPod and stereo speakers with every new song they're promoting.
  • by HMC CS Major (540987) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:59PM (#17377946) Homepage
    I personally dislike the Acer brand - goes back to 1997 when my Acer desktop was the worst machine I ever purchased. I'm sure they've improved since then, but there are other "better" brands out there, and IBM's Thinkpad line has an excellent reputation.

    In any event, arguing silly semantics about the 'top of the line' doesn't change the moral of the story - Microsoft wants good press and is going out of its way to get it. That's not surprising, they just have a bigger PR budget than most.

    Is it wrong? No.
    Is it uncommon? Giving out demos is certainly expected, but this sort of 'gift' is a bit unusual.
    Should people be aware that it's happening? Probably, if you want an unbiased opinion.

  • Why is this bad? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vtcodger (957785) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:01PM (#17377990)
    Lord knows, I'm no fan of Microsoft nowadays. I think most Vista customers are people who will end up wishing that they'd walked away from Microsoft software back in 2006-7-8 when it was relatively easy to do so. But there is absolutely nothing unethical about putting a product in the hands of folks who have an audience and might say something nice about it. It's not dishonest. It's not an abuse of monopoly. It's not, so far as I know, illegal. And it's not wrong.

    Since Vista might not run all that well on some of these folks old A21M Thinkpads or whatever, sending out CDs might be a bit risky. Especially given the general flakiness of laptop hardware. Getting a harvest of blogger comments about how Vista refused to install or installed, but ate six directories containing a new novel is really a dubious marketing investment. Since Microsoft is awash in profts from its unchecked monopoly practices, why not give away laptops along with the OS?

  • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:03PM (#17378014)
    It'd be like record labels sending journalists a free 80 gig iPod and stereo speakers with every new song they're promoting.

    Well, record labels will send free CDs, t-shirts, and other materials. Movie studios will fly reviewers out to special reviewer-only screenings of their films in a high-end theater. Microsoft wants Vista to be run on the best possible hardware for it, so they'll send out laptops with Vista preloaded. Apparently, Slashdotters are just now realizing how the industry has worked for decades. It's in the best interests of the companies for reviewers to have access to their products for review, because all this stuff is expensive and can be hard to find.

    You do realize they can send the laptop back to Microsoft when they're done reviewing Vista on it, right?
  • Re:I'm confused (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) * on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:09PM (#17378118)
    People don't complain about the cost as much when they don't need to pay for it. Put Vista on a Beefy system make sure it runs fast and smooth. These Bloggers otherwise would be rating Vista on a slower System, and probably paying for the smaller versions of vista. Where it could run clunky and choppy (plus MS May not have the drivers for it) Giving them systems they know it works perfectly on is like using systems at marketing expos They are setup for perfect use.
  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:32PM (#17378454) Homepage
    Step 1. Take the laptop.

    Step 2. Reformat Hard Drive.

    Step 3. Install Linux or whatever other Os of your choice.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @02:13PM (#17378982)
    To me, that's a gift not a bribe.

    And the Hells Angels are just displaying their sense of direction when they whisper in your ear that they know where you live.

    If you give a gift with the intention to influence, it's a bribe. Try "giving" the nice police officer a laptop (no strings attached) next time you're pulled over at the highway and see what happends next. He might ask you to come to his office so he can thank you properly!

    Or try "giving" a large sum of money to the guy you think will be president next time so he'll be grateful later and you'll be in good standing with the power. You'll go straight to jail. Oh wait.

  • ethical reviewing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zogger (617870) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @03:19PM (#17379822) Homepage Journal
    The only ethical reviewing is done by a system such as Consumer Reports uses. [consumerreports.org] They pay full price retail at a random store for the product under review, then conduct extensive real-world tests, and they also do not accept ads for their magazine or website. This applies to released products. That some game or software or entertainment companies do the opposite, just give away stuff, doesn't matter, it is still completely sleazy from sleazy people then and unethical as all get out and you won't get an honest opinion, it is tainted, or has a high probability of being tainted. This is similar to scientific peer review, they have to be scrupulous to disclose industry ties/conflicts, and that's because the community recognizes that the potential for bias is there.

        Unreleased products where they can be considered betas, no problem getting a sample loaner model, I have done it myself in a biz I was in before, critiquing proposed products. But, no money was received, nor were any products transferred for ownership, just a normal review process that both the product and the written review went back only to the manufacturer and wasn't for publication.
  • by Orange Crush (934731) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @03:41PM (#17380066)
    While it may be possible to reverse engineer enough to do it

    Part of MS's onerous content protection guidelines is to make the hardware as difficult to reverse engineer as possible. From inaccessible circuit paths and obfuscated drivers to encrypting the bus and "suspicious voltage" trip wires. Widespread adoption of DRM-crippled hardware will make open source and alternate platform drivers outrageously difficult. In addition, all the extra hardware and effort to lockdown equipment from its OWNER will make it cost more too.

    You cannot avoid DRM by simply avoiding Windows. Freedom loving geeks will have to do a bit of research to pick DRM-free parts. Maybe someday manufacturers will opt for a "DRM free" sticker on the box instead of "Designed for Windows Vista."

  • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @05:12PM (#17381030)
    The bloggers can return the laptops to Microsoft when they're done. However, your belief that companies don't give out free hardware is naive. It happens often.
  • by Junta (36770) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @12:21AM (#17384238)
    I agree at its core, it isn't technically a bribe, but it is questionable.

    Well, record labels will send free CDs, t-shirts, and other materials.
    CDs are a requisite for review, so they don't count. Since they are the product in themselves, no one is inclined to get even more samples of something they don't like. If someone doesn't like Nickelback, they won't lie and say they love Nickelback to get more Nickelback CDs. Now if they shipped a high quality stereo to play the CD on, that would be an analogy. shirts and trinkets are marketing fluff that no one tracks and it doesn't impact review decisions, though they probably get a little more advertising out of cheap people.

    Movie studios will fly reviewers out to special reviewer-only screenings of their films in a high-end theater.
    Closer, but the reviewers don't get to keep the theater. There is an implied benefit of future paid trips but it really depends on the destination and duration of the trip as to whether its practical or not. They want to control distribution of the film, so they don't want to send DVDs, and it is more expensive to set up many venues, so the most practical solution is pulling people in. If they pay for a 5 day trip, it's excessive, but if it is round-trip airfare and no more than one night's hotel, it could be reasonable.

    Microsoft wants Vista to be run on the best possible hardware for it, so they'll send out laptops with Vista preloaded.
    It's not common to need to send out something of that scale with a product sample to evaluate it in other industries (CDs aren't sent with nice players and speakers/headphones, etc etc). However, it could be a requirement for their marketing to have reviewers take a spin on a well-understood laptop, so I could give lee way, however there is precedent in the computer industry they break, details to follow....

    You do realize they can send the laptop back to Microsoft when they're done reviewing Vista on it, right?
    The point is MS is not asking for them back. If MS said "this is a demonstration loaner, must be returned" (which, btw, in the computer industry is *VERY* commonplace, half the equipment I work with we get for a limited time and have to return), no one could accuse them of impropriety (unless, of course, they said to keep it if the review is good). Just because a reviewer *can* return it doesn't mean it absolves MS of guilt. It's not a bribe if MS doesn't demand a good review in exchange, but it is a conflict of interest, because reviewers who hate MS products may be inclined to lie to get the hardware gifts which are not MS product.

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