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Microsoft Bribing Bloggers With Laptops 308

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:21PM (#17377414)
    Microsoft's marketing money has been in full scale damage control over the past few months too. As the console world has forgotten about the 360 in the same way gamers did with the Dreamcast with the arrival of the PS3 and Wii systems, Microsoft has been flooding reviewers, bloggers, websites(ahem), basically anything with an open palm to pimp the floundering 360.

    The most egregious example is the paid for Gears of War review scores. The game is getting slammed hard by even the Xbox's most diehard of supporters for poor network play and errors and jaggy graphics that don't look anything like the bullshit marketing shots for the game.

    It's just part of the culture up there in Redmond.

  • by SEMW ( 967629 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:21PM (#17377418)
    What "silence over the source of the laptops"? The bloggers mentioned in TFA all mentioned that the laptops were from Microsoft & AMD...
  • Caught red handed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JayTech ( 935793 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:30PM (#17377550)
    Wow, looks like Brandon LeBlanc got caught red-handed [mstechtoday.com].
    Yup, I traded in my Dell XPS 1710 for a little something different.
  • Re:No really. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:39PM (#17377664) Homepage Journal
    "No strings attached" to me is pretty clear

    If it was "no strings attached", why would Microsoft have bothered in the first place? Seriously -- just felt a pressing desire to spend tens of thousands for the fun of it?

    Microsoft knows that these bloggers have a long and deeply ingrained communal morality of "returning the favor" (it permeates all elements of our society), and no matter how much they might try to convince themselves that it won't affect their perception, it will intrinsically obligate them to be more inclined to see things from Microsoft's position, etc.

    This is a long and well proven psychological impulse. Read the great book Power and Persuasion. Really fascinating stuff.

    Having said all of that, if a Microsoft box arrived in the mail I certainly wouldn't refuse it.
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:01PM (#17377982)
    A free laptop that downscales and then reupscales all "unprotected" high quality signals that pass through it? Just to cover the mere possibility that you didn't pay for something? A laptop designed to detect the slightest analog voltage fluctuations, and inject crap bits into the system to make it crash, just in case you attach an alligator clip to your sound card to get free music? Or with remotely destructible device drivers that are disabled by Microsoft once the RIAA learns about a driver vulnerability that allows leakage of "protected content"? No thanks. [auckland.ac.nz]

    Someone should get the list of developers who got free laptops, so we can send them Knoppix CDs as "no strings attached gifts". These laptops already need rescuing.
  • by BewireNomali ( 618969 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:04PM (#17378034)
    Record companies actually do this and more for premiere and/or favored artists. Floor tickets to athletic contests, concert tickets with backstage passes, escorts, etc. Payola, it's called.

  • by Dolohov ( 114209 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:35PM (#17378506)
    The way I see it, this divides the computer-writing bloggers into four basic camps:
    1. Pro-Microsoft, got a laptop
    2. Pro-Microsoft, didn't get a laptop
    3. Anti-Microsoft, got a laptop
    4. Anti-Microsoft, didn't get a laptop

    The gift effectively marginalizes group 1 -- people will say, "Sure, you say that, but you've been bribed." And it'll partly marginalize group 2, as people will suspect them of being bribed and just not admitting it.

    Conversely, it empowers group 3. If they're getting 'bribes' and still criticizing Microsoft? Well, gosh, they must be of sterling moral fibre, or something.

    Group 4 would be split -- there will be those who increase their criticism out of either bitterness or a sense of moral outrage, just as there might be those who tone down their criticisms out of a vague hope of getting some future handout. Indeed, there will probably be more people writing about it, period.

    No, it doesn't make sense as a bribe. Looking at it as a "thank you" or at worst an inexpensive play for publicity (peanuts compared to a TV ad) makes far more sense.
  • by jaypeg ( 711764 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:44PM (#17378630)
    A few weeks ago Microsoft called a meeting for bloggers at their Redmond Campus. Bill walks into the meeting room and sees that every blogger that showed up was using a Mac laptop. Well I guess he didn't like that, so now he decides to send out free laptops to fix things. Trouble is, it's probably going to take more than a free laptop to make them switch back.
  • by MysticOne ( 142751 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:59PM (#17378812) Homepage
    I think a lot of this junk may be at the hardware level, though. So chances are the alternative OS you choose simply won't work with any of the hardware that requires this nonsense.
  • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SavvyPlayer ( 774432 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @02:03PM (#17378846)
    With no strings attached, this is not a bribe. It is a calculated risk:

    1. Reviewers will be far less likely to criticize Vista's complex pricing structure not having had to personally invest energy into weighing the cost/benefit of buying a mid-range edition.

    2. Reviewers will be far less likely to run into technical issues resulting from running the OS on mid-range hardware.

    3. More reviewers will focus more energy on features unique to Ultimate, which would be an implicit endorsement of Ultimate over all other editions.

    These actions are intended to inhibit (albeit to a limited extent) the spread of unbiased criticism to those who would benefit most by it. Going back to Ethics 101, this is (however subtly) acting against the best interest of society, and therefore unethical. Of course, in a society accustomed to a continuous assault on fact from many angles (sales/marketing/politics, etc.), this will go entirely unnoticed.

    From the perspective of diminished responsibility, I'd say this action is so minutely unethical that to label it "immoral" is misleading. "Guerrilla Marketing" would be a more useful characterization.
  • Re:top of the line? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lseltzer ( 311306 ) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @02:59PM (#17379482)
    I've met several relatively senior Microsoft personnel who love their Acer Ferraris. I was recently shopping for a high-end notebook on which to run Vista with XP in a child VM and asked several people at Microsoft. Some recommended the Acer, but I'm a Thinkpad bigot and got a duded-up Z61p.

    I write about their products all the time and they're always trying to influence me, but nobody's ever offered me anything like a notebook.
  • Bribery and Blogging (Score:4, Interesting)

    by daviddennis ( 10926 ) <david@amazing.com> on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @08:44PM (#17383046) Homepage
    I think that if it's disclosed, and the blogger continues to write, his bias will become pretty clear and whatever change he makes will be clear too.

    Many, many years ago, I ran an anti-Microsoft web site and Microsoft contacted me and sent me Windows NT 4.0. It was less bad than Windows95, but it didn't change my opinion and my site remained as it was. They just told me that they wanted me to have their latest stuff, so that I could write honestly about it. I respeted that.

    Truthfully, I think Microsoft did this to solve a curious little problem. Most bloggers aren't rich, and they're going to try and run Windows Vista on a computer that can barely run XP. So give them a gift, so they can run Vista the way it was meant to be run.

    To amplify this a bit, I have a Windows PC right next to my PowerBook that's less than six months old. I ran the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor on it and it sort of wimpered and slunk off with a "Vista Basic once you upgrade it to 1GB RAM from 512MB" recommendation. It's blazing fast running XP, with a 2.8ghz Pentium IV. An Apple computer of the same vintage would have no trouble at all running Tiger or Leopard.

    I think most bloggers are not going to be influenced by the gifts per se, but they will be nicer about Vista since they have a machine on which it will run well, which they might well otherwise not be able to obtain.

    I'm not sure if that's good or bad, fair or unfair. After all, most people on the ground nowadays are buying $799 laptops that do not have a prayer of running Vista. But truthfully, I think there's enough information about Vista's performance out there for people to be able to make up their own minds, and so Microsoft's efforts will have little genuine impact.

    I'm glad the bloggers will at least get some cool free stuff. We all like that. It's a pity that Apple's legendary customer loyalty makes steps like this entirely superflurous for the likes of me who would not mind a free MacBook Pro at all :-).


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