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The Almighty Buck Microsoft The Internet

Microsoft Laptop Recipient Auctioning Laptop 363

Salvance writes "While most bloggers who received the controversial Vista powered Acer from Microsoft are keeping them, Laughing Squid has decided to auction off his free laptop from Microsoft and donate all proceeds to the The Electronic Frontier Foundation. (EFF) He saw this as a great opportunity to support a worthy cause, and some other bloggers are following suit. What's funny is that Microsoft is now backpedaling and telling bloggers to send back the laptops. Do they even have a legal right to do so?"
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Microsoft Laptop Recipient Auctioning Laptop

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  • by DrRevotron ( 994894 ) * on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:04AM (#17396552)
    Microsoft isn't demanding that the bloggers return the laptops at once, which is what the wording of the article suggests - Microsoft only said that after the review is completed, he has the option of sending it back. Just my $0.02.
    • by LunarCrisis ( 966179 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:12AM (#17396592)
      FTFA (the fourth link)

      Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding of our intentions I'm going to ask that you either give the pc away or send it back when you no longer need it for product reviews.
      The summary is still wrong, but not as wrong as you make out.
      • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:38AM (#17396670)
        The Slashdot editorial comment: "Microsoft is now backpedaling and telling bloggers to send back the laptops. Do they even have a legal right to do so?" is misleading. The letter from MS quoted in TFA is couched as a request. No one claimed they had a "legal right" to demand their return.

        I hate MS as much as anyone, but there's no need to make stuff up.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:53AM (#17396722)
          >I hate MS as much as anyone, but there's no need to make stuff up.
          You must be new here.
  • huh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Swimport ( 1034164 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:07AM (#17396560) Homepage
    For the price of these laptops they could have sent out complimentary Vista discs to thousands of these so called influential people.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Umuri ( 897961 )
      Um, i think what you mean is that for the price of ONE of these laptops, they could send out vista discs to thousands of influential people. You do realize their ONLY production cost when giving out freebies on vista is the cost to press a dvd/cd/whatever it is stored on.
      • Oh come on!

        There's packaging, distrobution, key management, etc. involved as well. Cost of the media is likely the cheapest part.
        (not that I disagree with the point you were trying to make, but I'm tired of that particular argument (that it's only the cost of the media).

        -nB
        • Re:huh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:09AM (#17396790)

          If Microsoft wasn't so bent on keeping everything proprietary, there really would only be the cost of the media. Look, for instance, at organizations like Debian -- you don't see them paying for "key management," now do you?

      • Re:huh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:11AM (#17396806) Homepage
        Um, i think what you mean is that for the price of ONE of these laptops, they could send out vista discs to thousands of influential people. You do realize their ONLY production cost when giving out freebies on vista is the cost to press a dvd/cd/whatever it is stored on.

        No, that's not true... think of the loss of potential revenue. Those people would have paid $300 or so per copy, which is money out of M$'s pocket... food off of their plate... money that rightfully belongs to them. Just like when you pirate a movie - regardless of whether you would have seen it legally or not - that's money that the MPAA immediately feel the loss of, when they can't afford to send their kids to college anymore.

        ("dvd/cd/whatever it is stored on" - it's a DVD. It has to be, since all Vista DVDs have both 32 and 64-bit versions on them, as well as all the functionality of 'Vista Ultimate', which you need to pay more for to 'unlock'. So you see, the additional 'Ultimate' functionality is already on the DVD, but if you don't pay extra for it, you are taking money off of Microsoft's plate... food out of their pocket... um... or something)
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Umuri ( 897961 )
          Not particularly. Your argument in terms of piracy has one fatal flaw, and it's the same flaw the RIAA uses in its' extortion schemes in the U.S. Justice System. The loss of revenue is variable. For some people, piracy costs the RIAA absolutely NOTHING. Other's it may cost them a couple hundreds of dollars. The question here is whether or not the person would have bought it in the first place. If these reviewers, most of which from the looks of it were either against microsoft vista, or had pretty sha
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by julesh ( 229690 )
          Those people would have paid $300 or so per copy, which is money out of M$'s pocket

          I doubt many of these people will pay $300 for a copy of Vista. Some of them, for instance, seem to be mac users who would never do it. Others will choose not to upgrade until they buy a new machine, so will get an OEM copy, for which MS will likely only see ~$100. Others still will skip vista and not upgrade until the next version is released, which is unlikely to take as long as vista did.
      • by Konster ( 252488 )
        Not really. You also have to factor in the man-hours involved with such a project. In the case of MS, such a thing might branch out into 50 employees diddling along for a week for a simple release, plus shipping, plus handling, plus bandwidth, plus media costs, +, +.

        Even if you limited the whole thing to Vista, there's patch download costs and everything else. For MS, the whole patch thing could easily cost 6 figures ++++, and that's just on the first day of release, not including human costs. It's a huge c
        • Re:huh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by arkanes ( 521690 ) <arkanes@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday December 29, 2006 @10:07AM (#17397732) Homepage
          Without a *prior* contract in place, anything anyone sends to you in the mail is yours, free and clear. This is due to an old mail fraud scam, where you'd send someone magazines, or books, or whatever, and then bill them for services rendered. Shrinkwrap licenses don't work (because courts and lawmakers actually gave a shit about that kind of deceptive marketing 100 years ago). So if Microsoft sent people a laptop, if they didn't have a contract *before they sent it*, then they just gave away laptops. That's why the Microsoft letter says "give away or return", and that's why it's just spin anyway. Corporations don't give stuff like this away "just for fun". You can bet that it's entered on a balance sheet as "goodwill" somewhere. But you aren't supposed to be so obvious or extravagant with your bribes, so they're taking heat and they're trying to spin out of it.
    • Re:huh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dominique_cimafranca ( 978645 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:14AM (#17396598) Homepage
      Given Vista's steep hardware requirements, I doubt if just sending out CDs would have done much good.
      • by node 3 ( 115640 )

        Given Vista's steep hardware requirements, I doubt if just sending out CDs would have done much good.
        I disagree, I think it would have done a lot of good, just not from MS's point of view.
    • by hazem ( 472289 )
      For the price of these laptops they could have sent out complimentary Vista discs to thousands of these so called influential people.

      And risk that it would not install and run correctly on most of those thousands of computers? That would be a marketing nightmare. Vista is already how many years late?

      It's much better to have their own monkeys install and test the installation on the laptops (prescreened to be hardware compatible) to ensure it will work the best it can.
      • Re:huh (Score:4, Informative)

        by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @11:58AM (#17398800) Homepage

        And risk that it would not install and run correctly on most of those thousands of computers? That would be a marketing nightmare. Vista is already how many years late?

        Actually Microsoft did exactly this. They gave away 20,000 copies of Vista [powertogether.com] (and Office as well), to anyone willing to watch some developer videos. I got one, and while I don't have a blog, I do make recommendations to businesses. The point is that Microsoft IS willing to take the chance that Vista doesn't work properly, at least with a large portion of non-bloggers.

        Though I do think you're right. They gave away the laptops to the top "influencers" exactly to make sure that Vista ran properly on it.
  • by j-beda ( 85386 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:09AM (#17396574) Homepage
    But must they be returned? Probably not. In must places, unsolicited gifts cannot have strings attached. If someone sends you something in the mail, it is yours, even regardless of what is included in it. This is to prevent people from sending out "valuable" product unsolicited and then demanding payment. This means that if someone in the shipping room makes an error and send out actual valuable product to the wrong person, typically that wrong person is under no obligation to return it.

    • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:19AM (#17396610)
      Well given that Microsoft clearly said they could be sent back or given away when they gave them out initally of course they can. Also Microsoft have not asked for the latops back. They asked that they be given away or returned to them when reviewed, very big difference.
      • by Bastard of Subhumani ( 827601 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:27AM (#17396638) Journal
        They asked that they be given away or returned to them when reviewed, very big difference.
        I gave mine away, to my pet dog. He didn't like it much, so he sold it back to me for a biscuit and a tummy tickle. And I challenge any layer to prove otherwise.
        • by lukas84 ( 912874 )
          Your dog is not a legal person, and thus can not enter any sale contract.
          • by asuffield ( 111848 ) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:23AM (#17397164)
            There are numerous precedents to the contrary, although not in every jurisdiction. The question of whether non-humans have property rights is one that has been largely ignored by legislation, so the courts have been forced to make it up as they go along. While there are some dissenters, the courts are usually tolerant of the idea (although you may be required to appoint a guardian to manage their estate) - on the basis that if a person wants to provide for an animal's welfare by giving them something, they should be permitted to do so.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Well given that Microsoft clearly said they could be sent back or given away when they gave them out initally of course they can. Also Microsoft have not asked for the latops back. They asked that they be given away or returned to them when reviewed, very big difference.

        Not really, in the US at least. If someone mails you an unsolicited item you are under no obligation to pay for it or return it; no matter what the sender suggests or requests.

        Most review items either require a signed agreement - when they
    • by Bloke down the pub ( 861787 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:39AM (#17396676)
      If someone sends you something in the mail, it is yours, even regardless of what is included in it.
      And if the bank accidentally transfers money into your account you can keep it. If they ask for it back, it's entrapment. What's more, if a cop gives you a speeding ticket and he's not wearing his hat, you don't have to pay.
      • Did you learn this in 2006?
      • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:04AM (#17396960)
        And if the bank accidentally transfers money into your account you can keep it. If they ask for it back, it's entrapment. What's more, if a cop gives you a speeding ticket and he's not wearing his hat, you don't have to pay.

        Smart-ass. [usps.com]
      • by Secrity ( 742221 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:26AM (#17397180)
        In the US and other places that use British Common Law; if the bank accidentally transfers money into your account, it is called unjust enrichment and they can take it back.

        In the US, Canada, UK, and many other countries; if somebody sends an INDIVIDUAL an item that was unsolicited, the receiver may considered it to be a gift. The laws differ by country if a BUSINESS receives something that was unsolicited.

        On a forum, a guy who sells collectibles on ebay had a big problem because he mixed up two boxes that he sent to buyers; one contained a $300 item and the other a $20 item. The seller talked to a lawyer who essentially told the seller that he was shit out of luck. The seller had the lawyer type up a (useless) letter demanding that the $300 item be returned and sent it to the buyer.

        The buyers reported to ebay/paypal that they hadn't received their items. The buyer who received the demand letter then mailed a cheap toy to the seller. A week later the buyer sent the seller a letter containing the same wording as the letter that the seller had sent, demanding that the seller return the cheap toy. Needless to say, the seller's postings became quite livid at this point.

        In the end the seller was out the $300 item and shipping costs, and both paypal transfers were canceled. One buyer received a $300 item as an unsolicited gift and the other buyer returned the $20 item to the seller (seller paid the shipping). I don't know what happened to the cheap toy.

      • And if the bank accidentally transfers money into your account you can keep it.

        This is what happened to me recently. In my case, however, it was the correspondent bank who made the mistake: they accidentally processed the payment twice and voila! I have an extra $1k at my account. Then my bank called me and told that the correspondent wants his money back.

        The funny part is that when I came to local dept. of my bank they told me that they simply cannot 'cancel' a wire. There is simply no business proce

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The kicker is how they received it and what the prior to receipt emails constitute. I went through a bunch of blogs and most just say they received it but not how. One simply said a courier arrived (suggesting not USPS) but one did specifically mention DHL. So the below may not apply....

      In the ENTIRE United States, if MS sent the item by the POSTAL SERVICE without contacting them first, it's considered unsolicited merchandise. And they can keep it.

      http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/merch.h tm [usps.com]

      Not
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nacturation ( 646836 )

      But must they be returned? Probably not. In must places, unsolicited gifts cannot have strings attached. If someone sends you something in the mail, it is yours, even regardless of what is included in it. This is to prevent people from sending out "valuable" product unsolicited and then demanding payment. This means that if someone in the shipping room makes an error and send out actual valuable product to the wrong person, typically that wrong person is under no obligation to return it.

      Check out the letter that Joel [on Software] Spolsky got [joelonsoftware.com]. Here are the key quotes:

      • "I'm working on getting some hardware out to key community folks, and I'd like to offer you a review PC."

      So right away we know its purpose is as a review PC and that it's being offered, conditional upon acceptance by the blogger.

      • "Also, you are welcome to send the machine back to us after you are done playing with it, or you can give it away on your site, or you can keep it."

      Additionally, this lays out a gentleman's agree

      • by node 3 ( 115640 )
        In other words, if someone (let's not dissemble, some corporation--you don't make a "gentlemen's" agreement with a corporation. It's not like the MS employee paid for the laptop himself) gives you a free laptop for review, you should not give your honest reaction?
        • In other words, if someone (let's not dissemble, some corporation--you don't make a "gentlemen's" agreement with a corporation. It's not like the MS employee paid for the laptop himself) gives you a free laptop for review, you should not give your honest reaction?
          Where did I infer that an honest reaction should not be given?
           
          • by node 3 ( 115640 )

            Where did I infer that an honest reaction should not be given?
            Implied. But anyway, when you put down how he responded. At least, that's how I inferred it.

            He's auctioning the notebook and donating to the EFF is clearly a statement of protest against MS.

            As for breaking the agreement, he's essentially giving away the notebook.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Golias ( 176380 )
              He's not giving it away, he's selling it. What he does with the money doesn't change that.

              If a blogger wants to write a savage review of Vista, that's awesome. I hate Microsoft, and enjoy seeing them fail.

              If a blogger wants to donate his own money to the EFF, that's also awesome. The EFF rocks, and deserves our support.

              If a blogger wants to sell something which he accepted on the condition that he would "return, give away, or keep", that's dishonest.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by node 3 ( 115640 )

                He's not giving it away, he's selling it. What he does with the money doesn't change that.
                Yes, it does. You might have a point if he sold it, then later decided to give the money away. But he's already promised the proceeds to charity. Functionally, it's no different than had he donated the notebook to the EFF directly for them to auction off.
      • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
        So now PC's come with licenses too?

        Also, you are welcome to send the machine back to us after you are done playing with it, or you can give it away on your site, or you can keep it.

              OK, I decided to keep it. Now it's mine. End of contract. 5 minutes later, I decide to sell it on Ebay. Big deal.
        • So now PC's come with licenses too?

          Also, you are welcome to send the machine back to us after you are done playing with it, or you can give it away on your site, or you can keep it.

          OK, I decided to keep it. Now it's mine. End of contract. 5 minutes later, I decide to sell it on Ebay. Big deal.

          A valid point. However, to me it's like someone giving me their grandfather's antique watch and saying "I'm giving this to you, but only if you agree that you'll wear it." I accept and then I wear it for a day [fulfilling my obligation] and put it up on eBay the next day. Just doesn't seem right.

  • unconcious bias (Score:4, Informative)

    by purplelocust ( 944662 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:12AM (#17396590)
    Presumably, Microsoft read the same New York Times Op-Ed [nytimes.com]on bias as everyone else, that basically says that people claim to be uninfluenced by things like this but that they really are fooling themselves and are biased. Microsoft wouldn't have done this laptop giveaway if they didn't think it would work- that is, result in at least slightly better reviews than they would have gotten otherwise.
    • I don't know about that... using the gift to help the opposition sounds like pretty good evidence of resisting bias to me! In fact, I wish more people would do the same -- imagine how much better the world would be if, for example, politicians took bribes from Big Oil and then donated them to alternative energy research instead of letting them influence them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gregory Cox ( 997625 )
      But there are other benefits to Microsoft besides unintentional bias.

      Just having enough influential bloggers get used to using Vista and writing about it may well help to increase its popularity by word of mouth (assuming it's not actually dramatically worse than XP). This is the "first hit is free" or "cinema preview" effect.

      Letting bloggers who are likely to try Vista use a super-fast PC to give them the best possible user experience is also likely to cut down on negative comments.

      At this stage, when Vist
  • Hey (Score:2, Troll)

    by Deliveranc3 ( 629997 )
    Any publicity is good publicity...

    cough
    • At that price you can get yourself a faster MacBook Pro. With a bigger screen, Faster Processor, 3 times as much RAM. And comes with a real OS with option to to install a Fake OS as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:31AM (#17396650)
    Just a day ago we were all jealous and against anyone who'd dare to keep a laptop from Microsoft, and already we have to defend them? *BOOM* Good God, I can't figure out how I should blame Microsoft now. Please help me out, folks.
  • Yawn (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WalterGR ( 106787 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:35AM (#17396660) Homepage

    Yawn is all I can say.

    Okay, not the EFF, but how about

    From Lawrence Lessig's blog: "So we have 10 days left in the Creative Commons campaign. This is not a drill. We are down to the last $100,000, and really need your support..." (source [lessig.org]) And then a few days later... "At 12:30pm, an envelope from Redmond appeared at the Creative Commons office. Inside, a check for $25,000. From Microsoft." (source [lessig.org]))
  • by kahei ( 466208 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:48AM (#17396704) Homepage

    The real news here is how snobbish, foppish and whiny that blogger is. Is this what the blogosphere is like?? Is it really ruled by Mac-obsessed almost-hipsters with unwise facial hair and diagonal black-and-white photos of themselves? Do they really whinge on about how they're too clever to use Vista and how their webcasting startup will change the face of the Internet (sidebar on the right)?

    Is this it, after 10 years of evolution?? Nathan Barley writ small, throwing a hissy fit because the wording of the letter on a review item was vague? THAT is a blogger important enough to merit unsolicited review junk??

    Yeesh.

    • by Bazman ( 4849 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:20AM (#17396840) Journal
      No, its much worse, this is it after four and a half billion years of evolution.
    • by antic ( 29198 )
      Sounds like a wanker to me.

      MS suggested the reviewers either return the laptop or give it away to someone else to give the impression that any reviews were a little less influenced and this guy sooks? Gee. Just give the laptop to a charity who could make use of it or a free-software project or something.
    • "Is this what the blogosphere is like?? Is it really ruled by Mac-obsessed almost-hipsters with unwise facial hair and diagonal black-and-white photos of themselves?"

      Maybe. But what's wrong with being Mac-obsessed? (Being almost-hip follows automagically.)
    • Well it is more of an issue for Tech Bloggers to blog for things they care about or feel strongly against things they hate. Mac/Linux and other alternative OS people feel strongly about their Minority OS, and feel deep anger towards the majority OS they feel that culture is pushing them to use. There are very few people who a huge MS Fans, Because it is the number 1 OS. So people don't feel the need to explain how good it is to the world. Even a person who is technically skills who honestly likes window
    • by vishbar ( 862440 )

      Is it really ruled by Mac-obsessed almost-hipsters with unwise facial hair and diagonal black-and-white photos of themselves?

      Welcome to the blogosphere, kahei. Welcome to the blogosphere.

  • by wng_z3r0 ( 889718 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:01AM (#17396752) Homepage
    First: a disclaimer (though I think it's irrelevant) I am a Microsoft MVP Now then, The little news blurb is misleading. The first time I read the post, I thought that Microsoft was unhappy that the blogger was donating his machine to charity and demanded the laptop back. Upon thorough reading of the included links, it is apparent that Microsoft has asked the blogger to give the laptops away (in support of the auction) or send them back to Microsoft. If you are going to include everything that Microsoft has done wrong, you might as well nail when they *actually* screw up. Trust me, there are enough of those to keep /. busy without misrepresenting stories. wng
    • The article isn't misleading at all. One blogger has decided to auction his laptop and give the proceeds to the EFF. Separately, Microsoft has decided that keeping the laptops is no longer an option. That's how I read the article summary. On reading the linked articles it becomes clear that they are concerned about the conflict of interest so they either want them back or they want them donated to somebody else. All of this seems reasonable (if a little odd) to me. The only unreasonable thing about the whol
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by node 3 ( 115640 )
        Actually, it's sillier than that.

        He actually *is* giving the laptop away. He's giving it (the monetary value) to the EFF. He's not profiting from it directly at all.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
      Microsoft has asked the blogger to give the laptops away (in support of the auction) or send them back to Microsoft.

            Only problem is, see, if you give me something - then it's mine. I can do whatever the hell I want with it. Or is Microsoft implying that they don't really OWN the laptops, but rather have licensed them?
  • INNACURATE (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 29, 2006 @06:36AM (#17396882)
    The writer for this article is spinning this article. According to the links, MS is asking them to return the laptops *OR* give them away as a gift. By reading the submission alone we are led to believe that MS is merely asking for them back. I'm not condoning their actions or anything but let's call an orange an orange!
  • Microsoft should have done it in their typical approach -- pay for excessive amounts of advertising. By doing that, they blogger knows what's feeding him and will more likely write positive reviews of Microsoft and bash their competitors.
  • Too bad MS didn't send me one of these. Maybe it's time to update the ol' blog..
  • Well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mtec ( 572168 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @09:36AM (#17397486)
    You can't un-ring a bell
    once the sound waves get out.

    When I read a review
    there always be doubt.

    Were the words to critique?
    Were the words to describe?

    Is that glowing review
    the result of a bribe?

    They sent Ultimate insults
    with Ferrari toupees

    When they should have
    just let the chips
    fall where they may.

  • by laughingsquid ( 871087 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @10:12AM (#17397772) Homepage

    There seems to be quite a bit of misinformation here regarding my "agreement" with Microsoft (there wasn't any) regarding what I can do with the laptop. I've updated my blog post with the following:

    As I mentioned in my original post on the laptop [laughingsquid.com], the only communication I received about this was an email from Edelman. The email stated that Microsoft was sending me a "present" with "no strings attached" (those were the exact words used in the email). They did not include any instructions at all regarding what to do with the laptop. Also, I did not receive the same email as the other bloggers, including the follow-up email that was sent by Microsoft to Marshall Kirkpatrick asking him to return or give away the laptop. I have asked Edelman for an explanation regarding this inconstancy, but have not yet received one. So just to be clear, I was never sent any kind of instructions on what to do with the laptop and I did not sign anything, including an NDA.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

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