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Microsoft Under Fire Over Laptop Giveaways to Bloggers

Posted By Darren Rowse 29th of December 2006 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

While i spent the day in the sun at the cricket watching Australia totally decimate England a storm has been brewing in the blogosphere over Microsoft giving away Ferrari Acer laptops loaded with Vista to bloggers to review – and if they want, to keep.

Interestingly – I received an email from Microsoft a week or two back asking me if I’d be interested in participating.

This was the approach:

I’d love to send you a loaded Ferrari 1000 courtesy of Windows Vista and AMD. Are you interested?

This would be a review machine, so I’d love to hear your opinion on the machine and OS. Full disclosure, while I hope you will tell others about your experience with the pc, you don’t have to. Also, you are welcome to send the machine back to us after you are done playing with it, or you can give it away to your community, or you can keep it. Just let me know your opinion on Windows Vista and what you plan to do with it when the time comes.

I was a little surprised by the email but my immediate thought was:

  • as a Mac user I was immediately skeptical about anything with Microsoft in/on it. I was however curious about Vista as I’ve heard so much about it. As a Mac user I’d have no way to review it however without a PC.
  • the thought of a free laptop was a little tempting
  • the idea of giving it away appealed more than keeping it – I know of a few charity groups that could definitely use it and/or the idea of giving it as a prize to a reader was tempting
  • I was a little intrigued about this approach and wondered what would happen in the wider blogosphere when the story broke, bloggers getting laptops worth thousands of dollars to keep if they wanted just to review their operating system. My initial reaction was that this would not be greeted with unamimous support and that the combination of it being Microsoft doing the giveaways and that bloggers were able to not disclose if they wised would be controversial

After some consideration and chatting to a few other bloggers I decided that I’d accept the machine under the proviso that I do post a disclaimer about anything that I write about it or the operating system, that I’d write an honest review (I did tell the Microsoft rep that I’m not a techie type and not to expect anything too tech focused) and that I would give the laptop away after reviewing it (probably to a charity).

To this point I’m yet to receive the Ferrari 1000 but today I did get an email from Microsoft saying that they did not want me to keep the machine. Now my only two options are to send it back or to give it away. They wrote:

As you write your review I just wanted to emphasize that this is a review pc. I strongly recommend you disclose that we sent you this machine for review, and I hope you give your honest opinions. 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. Since you are a Mac user, I’m assuming you don’t have a Windows Vista pc. Feel free to hold onto this loaner as long as you need a Windows computer for reviews.

Obviously the controversy of today has led them to revise their offer to bloggers to keep the machines. It’s probably a wise move and something that they should have put into place from the start.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. in principal it’s wrong, but in practice I’d take it and format it right away and put on linux :)

    I think Ms should force it’s user to do a full disclosure.

  2. I want one ‘loaded’ Ferrari too ;) I’d do a free full hardware & software review!

  3. Good article w interesting points

  4. I second what Ian said! :D

  5. It would go the same for me.They won’t be getting any review too tech from me..a hek…

    not a hard nerd geek nor softie myself, I might be lost what to write..on the laptop or on the vista?

    No wonder I don’t get the offer.

  6. *
    Fantastic offer!
    I for one would have been interested in your review of VISTA Darren.
    As for the bigger picture, I don’t want to sway one way or the other
    since I believe that many variables would affect each persons reason
    to or not to accept and review the product.

    As you mentioned, giving away the product to someone else who needs and
    can use it is a great plus !

    Sorry I haven’t been here for a while – busy days during this time of the year.
    Best to everyone !

    Michael F.T.F.

  7. I didn’t get any offer for a laptop. Then again I’ve been harshly critical of Windows Vista in the past. They probably don’t WANT me to review it.

    Anyway, what exactly is the problem with a blogger keeping the laptop? I really don’t understand what all the frenzied yelling and screaming is all about.

  8. I don’t have a problem with them keeping the laptops.

  9. […] momentan zirkuliert in der englischsprachigen Blogosphere ein Aufruhr der etwas kleineren Windstärke. Worum gehts? Microsoft und Edelman haben verschiedenen Blogger ein brandneues Acer-Notebook (Modell “Ferrari”) im Wert von ca. +/-2500 USD zukommen lassen. Manche haben vorab diese Mail von MS/Edelman bekommen, zB Darren Rowse/ProBlogger: I’d love to send you a loaded Ferrari 1000 courtesy of Windows Vista and AMD. Are you interested? This would be a review machine, so I’d love to hear your opinion on the machine and OS. Full disclosure, while I hope you will tell others about your experience with the pc, you don’t have to. Also, you are welcome to send the machine back to us after you are done playing with it, or you can give it away to your community, or you can keep it. Just let me know your opinion on Windows Vista and what you plan to do with it when the time comes. […]

  10. I for one would just to like to say that I am open to any offer of a free laptop. I will of course provide an objective review. Do you prefer four stars or shall I give a resounding five out of five?

  11. If you get it, I’d love to do a review of the artistic side of vista after you get done with it. We could just pass it around b5 as a traveling laptop…lol. May be fun to see what eventually would happen as it traveled the world in the hands of all of us.

  12. Great Idea William… You can even make a movie about this…

    Brotherhood of the traveling laptop (a play on sisterhood of the traveling pants)….. I think Hollywood would love this movie script..

  13. As a developer I have received many thousands of dollars of “Promotional” software from Microsoft and never thought twice about it. This form of promotion has been used forever so I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be able to take the laptop. Fashion designers give free clothes to celebs etc, it is a perfectly valid form of marketing.
    The fact that they are now telling you not to keep it is plain silly as far as I can see, as they can’t enforce it.
    As long as there are not any strings attached then I don’t see what the problem is with this form of promotion.

  14. I think 2007 will be the Year of Social Media Accountability.

    We bloggers are going to have to do some deep thinking about ethics before our respective governments do it for us. You handled this fine, Darren. But we should all consider the appropriateness of such programs, how disclosure should work, and the point where vendors (and bloggers) cross the line — wherever that is.

  15. Good point about social media accountability, Chris. Ethics is a hot topic in any other area… why not in the blogosphere. We’ve got a lot more freedom than some other avenues and it raises the stakes of our (the bloggers) role.

    It will be interesting to see what 2007 brings. :)

  16. “As a Mac user I’d have no way to review it however without a PC.”

    Hi Darren, you can install Windows Vista on an Intel-based Macintosh. And if you have any trouble with Microsoft’s OS – just quit it ;-) Command-Q, it’s easy as that. Try this on a PC. ;-)

  17. I’m thinking a mocumentary…

  18. I don’t see why this is such a big deal. I personally would write up the review as I would if I had not been given the laptop. Even if I planned to keep it. I am already getting a copy of Vista Business for free, it will not sway me in my review. I have already told everyone that is wondering about it, that I will not even dare install it until Service Pack I comes out, and then it still depends on how much it has been intergrated and if I think my machine will be able to handle it after bench’s come out.

  19. […] Microsoft Under Fire Over Laptop Giveaways to Bloggers […]

  20. Joel On Software has some pretty interesting thoughts here:
    Joel’s a business owner, a former high-level Microsoft employee and has been ‘blogging’ since before anyone coined the term ‘blog’.

    Let me ad my own thoughts. The pro and con comments I have seen so far just this morning tell me quite a bit about the ethical qualities of some of the people I read regularly. Variety is the spice of life, that’s for sure.

    What was the name of that Robert Redford movie where he solicited his best friend’s wife to sleep with him for … what was it a million bucks? To those who think it’s ethically ‘OK’, I’ll recycle and old joke that I think the Redford movie was based on … man offers woman some outlandish fee to sleep with him, she laughingly agrees. Then he says, “my offer is reduced to $10.”. Woman flies into rage and says to man, “what do you think I am, some kind of cheap whore”? Man replies, “madam, we already _know_ what you are, we now merely need to go through the price negotiation phase.”

    What’s your price?

  21. CheezieDanish says: 12/29/2006 at 9:10 am

    “The fact that they are now telling you not to keep it is plain silly as far as I can see, as they can’t enforce it.”


    In all honestly, I don’t think MS expects anyone to “give it away” or to send it back.

    /Linux user

  22. […] With the recent kerfuffle over Microsoft giving laptops to bloggers so that they might try out Vista — and then quickly letting them know that they were NOT gifts after all (but had to be given away, or sent back) has gotten the blogosphere all riled up during this quiet inter-christmas-new year time period. Quite frankly, in spite of all the righteous outrage that got Microsoft to retract their offer (or change it, as it were), I’m not sure where Microsoft was wrong in all of this. […]

  23. I don’t have a big enough readership for Microsoft to offer me a laptop.

    However, I’m happy to receive one from any of the reviewers when it comes time to give it away. :)

  24. Wow. Now I could review a laptop. As someone who has completed repairs that even lisenced techs haven’t been brave enough to attempt, and a person who can cause nearly any OS to die in mere moments due to overuse, with no real prefrence for any particular OS, I think I’d be great to review a laptop with Windows Vista. Heck, I’ve already had folks asking me what I think of it, and I haven’t even seen it yet.

    Plus I need a laptop for business travel now that things are getting busier. *wink*

    Seriously though, I see no problem with companies giving things to bloggers (or anyone else for that matter). WOM is the most effective form of advertising, and I use it in my own business and blogging.

    Keeping the sample is something that I have never heard questioned before however. I mean really, have you ever had a perfume company ask for it’s sample vial back? It’s just silly. After the review on an item is completed, the item belongs to the reviewer to do with as they choose. It doesn’t matter what that action is: from giving it away, to painting it, to tossing it off of a rooftop somewhere, it is yours. Expecting anything else is just ridiculous.

    As for reviewing things, honesty is the only policy. not only does it bring more people to request reviews, but it brings in more readers as well, because readers know when they are being told the straight truth of one person’s opinion. Reveiwing honestly builds community respect and readership. There is nothing more important in the blogosphere than integrity IMO.

  25. Yeah, being given sample products (to review and keep) is a long used marketing technique – seems to be finally reaching the b’sphere.

    I see no problems with this if it’s kept above board. Full disclosure would be the ideal. I’m surprised it has taken the b’sphere by storm as it has. It’s also a sign that blogging is maturing if such tactics are getting through to us.

    I know I’ve benefited from products I’ve received at my ePublishingDaily blog.

    Chris (#10) has put up valid thoughts which I also believe will be much talked about in 2007 – accountability/disclosure.

    With this one, I’m more surprised that Microsoft flip-flopped after initially offering you to keep the laptop. That’s very unlike MS. :)

  26. My problem is, I have a PR6 website with 50,000 uniques daily,
    but the topic isn’t tech. Still would be nice to find a link where to apply
    for a laptop review. I’ve done some reviews in the past, that went really good quite frankly. It’s just that thousands of my readers are mac users that are dying for Windows Vista ;)

    Is there a way to apply to microsoft?


  27. Like Jon Symons getting sent stuff is part and parcel with my niche, I get sent DVD’s all the time as do most other recognisable blogs and sites in the niche, its the only way we can review them before the release date. Some mind you are just “Check discs” and not the full DVD package that hits the shops, but we are still being given something in return for talking about a product.

    At the end of the day no DVD company has ever asked us to lie and I personally would never do so, but the potential to do so is there, it depends on the individuals, some people will, some people won’t you just have to find a reviewer you trust and those that are hyping rubbish in exchange for goods will become obvious in the end and lose trust.

    I would have no problem with someone like Darren keeping the laptop because I believe his popularity relies on trust from bloggers and I don’t believe for a second he would risk that for something as simple as a laptop.

    I don’t no why people get hyped up about this stuff, just about every kind of review site you can think of gets sent items to review it goes with the territory, how do you think all those gadget blogs get to review thousands of dollars of technology?

  28. And the difference with Microsoft doing this and Darren giving away prizes for his group writing projects is……???? Its all about promotion of their respective businesses. I have no problem with this, Darren and his b5 network are a professional blogging operation. Microsoft is also a business. They give stuff away to promote their respective businesses. So what ? For the life of me I can’t see what the moral outrage is about. I would strongly doubt that there is a person contributing to this blog who has not accepted free stuff from a business at some time or other.

    The bakery across the road always has a staff member giving out free tastings. The neighborhood hardware store was giving away free sausages sandwiches and free lessons on how to use some of the power tools they sell a couple of weeks ago. A new coffee shop near me was doing a “buy one get one free” cup of coffee deal. Would any us suddenly be morally bankrupt if we accepted any of this stuff – of course not.

    Microsoft are not sending standover men around to the laptop recipients place to make sure they write a favourable review. They are giving stuff away and hoping that their product is good enough to generate favourable reviews and publicity. A bog common marketing technique.

  29. Which of your blogs will you post your review(s) of the laptop and Vista on?

    I’m a System Admin of a Microsoft/Linux network. I’d love to read about what a Mac user thinks of Vista.

  30. I have no issue with what MS has done or with bloggers that accept the offer. My issue is with the bloggers that want to be the moral judges and then have double standards. In this case I can’t believe Mike Arrington is going to take the laptop after the stuff he wrote about Payperpost.

    I can’t see why we should accept that Mike can get a 3000 odd dollar laptop to review Vista but small bloggers that have to cover there own costs can’t get $10 to review Joe Blogs Inc!

    Mike is hopelessly conflicted and he is so far into it, he can’t even see it!


  31. I’m sure Microsoft has more attorneys than you can shake a stick at and why those said attorneys didn’t have them write up the offer with those provisos in place at the start is more than odd. Downright bizarre. They’d know better than that and now they just look wonky for the back pedaling. Just the same, I am rather jealous of your offer. My husband and I were talking about this same item earlier today and he was joking around about how they were going to send me one to review. We got a good laugh out of it. Good luck and let us know how you like it.

  32. Doesn’t the Vista’s need minimum 2GIG memory? If anybody is receiving this laptop, and giving it away .. please consider sending me all your memory chips! Yuummm.. My computer can eat your memory chips.

  33. I would love to keep it :)
    sad … they don’t even know me … lol …

  34. […] News is all over the Blogsphere that Microsoft is offering free Ferrari laptops for bloggers to review Windows Vista. Well known bloggers, like Darren Rowse, have been receiving the following email. I’d love to send you a loaded Ferrari 1000 courtesy of Windows Vista and AMD. Are you interested? […]

  35. I don’t see the problem here. As a Linux on Mac user I am as anti-MS as anyone. However, if Darren talks about what it is like to be a blogger using MS Vista, and the changes it may require to bloggers who use Microsoft; then that sounds very useful indeed.

  36. Hey Hart – 2G of memory for Vista !!! That can’t be right – most are still on 512 and just moving to 1G. An OS requiring 2G of memory sounds like major OSbloatware to me. ;-)

  37. I never got the email but would’ve loved to have reviewed it and kept the laptop. I think their problem began with people saying that letting the reviewers keep the laptops was the bribe. I think it was a generous gift and the fact they were allowing them to keep it, send it back or hand it out was nice. I think anything that is reviewed should be kept by the reviewer as a thank you, whether or not they liked the product. Well I can’t wait to read the reviews that others will surely have out in the next month, but that laptop sure would’ve been nice.

  38. besides the fact that you are a mac guy… it just doesn’t fit your niche of making money with blogging (unless they are including some new blogging software in vista).

    It’s like sending me a novel to review on my artist blog. I’ll review it for my niche. “Nice cover, but it needs more pictures…”

  39. DR … You should run a contest for loyal readers and award the laptop to one of them. How about picking from those who post on December 29th at 9:44 Central Time in the United States?


  40. I’m with you that anything that Microsoft is giving away has a catch and they should have been more clear upfront instead of backtracking

  41. […] Now, to all you Microsofties out there that read this blog, I hear that when you give an honest Vista review like this one, Microsoft sends bloggers like me a new laptop to evaluate Vista and help us better understand the true value of Vista.   I could be swayed.  But for now, unless Microsoft can help me understand again why I might someday want to install that hopeless piece of garbage, I have to retract my previous “looking forward” statements, and I no longer recommend Vista to my vast subscribership. […]

  42. We also have received a fully loaded Media Center PC from Microsoft as part of this campaign. People need to stop complaining – in reality, it really seems that those complaining are those who weren’t chosen. It is COMMON PRACTICE from companies to get their products into the hands of those who review said products, prior to a launch. How else are you supposed to review them before they are available to the general public? This isn’t just for the tech industry – Ebert and Roeper see movies – for free – before they are available to the public. Any problem there? Probably not.

    Plus this is a part of something bigger that Microsoft is doing – the Vanishing Point game, where Loki is the one “planning” these giveaways.

  43. Hm, I’d be more than happy to review Vista against Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger with full disclosure to my readership!

  44. I don’t think I can trust a product from a company that has no idea how much it spent to build it. I am moving to Mac next time I need a computer.

  45. What a tempest in a teapot. Seriously people. Of all the ethical dilemmas in the world to consider, this one isn’t even on the list. In the book business publishers send thousands of books out to people in hopes of getting a few reviews. How is this different? Just because it’s Microsoft? and the PC is worth a few thousand? Even better that MS is sending some of these to Mac users. Believe me, as a loyal Mac user myself, if you could get me to find one nice thing to say about a PC, it must be a damn good machine. If MS is backpedaling on the “keep it” offer so that they don’t appear to be violating any so-called blogger ethics, that’s too bad. I wouldn’t expect MS to cave on something so stupid.

  46. […] A different approach was used with Darren Rowse of Pro Blogger, he was asked in advance if he wanted a “review machine”. I think that would have been the best approach by Microsoft for all the bloggers involved, not just Darren. […]

  47. Martin (#37) … Check out specs from Andru (#43)’s link :) ….

    2 GB DDR-800 RAM

  48. Hi fellow brothers, sisters and Darren.

    Even though I my blog topic and interest is not directly what is being spoken here, I found this blog useful to help people like me promote my blog. I have been trying to use some of the advice given here, and I am sure it will work with time. I lost my job because of my blog, and I was happy to find this blog- as i hope to use the techniques discussed here to help myself.

    About the new VISTA, I am sure it will have a couple of bugs and problems, as any new Windows does. It is safer to use the XP, once the Vista is out. Most viruses are not made for the older software. As a windows user I will stick to XP till Vista is not proven.

    I will love to learn more from the community of pro-bloggers here, so that I can further spread my message of peace and understanding.

  49. […] A lot of people are screaming bloody murder with that Acer Ferrari laptop loaded with Vista which Microsoft sent as gifts to top bloggers. What is so wrong about that? […]

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