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.”

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