Digital Journal — It’s very trendy right now to hate Microsoft. Especially in light of the recent news Microsoft gave away laptops loaded with the Vista OS to tech bloggers. But is all that hate warranted?
The news comes at a time when Microsoft is hoping to bolster attention for its successor to Windows XP. Basically, the software giant just wants to spread its reach. So after news broke that Microsoft’s PR company Edelman sent free Acer Ferrari laptops to 90 bloggers — in an attempt to let these online journalists test the OS to properly report on it — comment threads were inundated with incensed opinions.
A reader on CNet found the strategy in line with Microsoft’s monopolistic ways: “Microsoft learned how to bribe when they paid off American politicians to not break them up as a monopoly. This is where they learned their talents.” On Slashdot, one user defended the idea, stating “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.”
Here’s the rub: Those bloggers should disclose their freebies. A truly ethical code of conduct in journalism enforces full disclosure, so the onus is on the blogger and not the PR reps. It would be foolish if bloggers ignored the laptop giveaway and reviewed Vista without explaining what could possibly influence their opinion. If these bloggers reveal what arrived on their doorstep, this becomes a non-issue.
Microsoft’s laptop free-for-all is a smart idea. Essentially, it got the ever-prickly blogosphere abuzz with both indignation and praise, name-dropping Vista in every comment thread. Like any good viral marketing campaign, the brand is discussed at length, spreading the name to any online wanderer. If Microsoft critics wanted to silence the Vista hype, they wouldn’t report on it. As the old adage goes: If you want something to go away, ignore it.
Product freebies are common practice all over the media (including influential blogs), so those that scream at Microsoft seem to be upset simply because this offender is Microsoft. It’s very rare that you will see this kind of public execution when a blogger or journalist receives iPods, Nintendo DS handhelds or Motorola RAZR cellphones. Microsoft is an easy target.
It will be interesting to see if this marketing technique spreads across the entire Microsoft empire. Will game reviewers score free Xbox 360 consoles with new games? Will music magazines enjoy a deluge of hand-delivered Zune players? Microsoft could follow the popular maxim, “Any publicity is good publicity,” and effectively extend its brand to the gatekeepers of public opinion.