RealTime IT News

Bloggers Rebuff Microsoft 'Gifts'

A tactic by Microsoft , AMD and a PR firm to gain traction for Vista is instead reaping a whirlwind of controversy.

Edelman, the PR agency behind Vista's launch, sent Acer Ferrari laptops sporting the Windows Vista operating system and AMD processors to tech bloggers. But when bloggers questioned the ethics behind the deliveries, Microsoft and Edelman went into spin mode to explain their actions.

The companies refused to say exactly how many laptops were given to bloggers or how much they cost. But Rich Murray, president of Me-too Revolution, Edelman's social networking effort, said "roughly 90" laptops were sent to bloggers.

Prices for the Acer Ferrari 1000 and Acer Ferrari 5000 list between $2,000 and $2,400. Microsoft directed all questions about the laptops to Edelman.

Jocelyn Zell, Edelman vice president, told internetnews.com the confusion was caused by an e-mail that Microsoft sent to bloggers describing the laptops as loaners. "Our official position is that once these bloggers are done experiencing the product, they can choose what they want to do with them. There were no strings attached."

Aaron Coldiron, a Vista product manager, admits the laptop giveaway was the brainchild of Microsoft and AMD, but emphasized the laptops were for review and should either be returned or be given away.

Coldiron posted a comment on Long Zheng's blog in response to the controversy. "We have been up front that these are review PCs, and we encourage bloggers to disclose that." Coldiron quoted a portion of an e-mail he said was sent to bloggers suggesting the laptops could be reviewed and then either returned or given away.

Despite this uproar, Edelman will use bloggers in future campaigns, Zell said. The company is aware of the potential perils of such campaigns but maintains there are benefits.

Murray said the project has been generally well-received, adding that there were more positive reactions than negative ones. He acknowledged that using bloggers to promote products is never problem-free. The blogging atmosphere is "akin to the communications Wild West," Murray said. You put your clients at risk.

Marshall Kirkpatrick, one of the bloggers who received a laptop and who wrote about the fiasco on his blog, said that without the free computer, he likely would not have given Vista a second look. As for the ethics of bloggers getting freebies from companies that might be the subject of posts: "Anyone whose integrity can be bought for a laptop probably doesn't have much integrity in the first place."

Om Malik, operator of the tech blog Gigaom, said he would treat it as any other product review and then ship it back to Microsoft. The blogger suggested Microsoft should have sent Vista CDs. The entire episode wasn't planned very carefully, Malik said.

"Frankly, I need another laptop like I need another hole in my head."