Microsoft and AMD have sent free Acer Ferrari 1000 and 5000 notebooks loaded with Vista to a group of high-profile bloggers.
Recipients include Brandon LeBlanc, Scott Beale, Barb Bowman, Mauricio Freitas, Mitch Denny, Zen.Heavengames and Long Zheng. (Update: the machine that Long Zheng will receive is actually a Velocity Micro Media Center PC).
While Microsoft’s PR department may have thought it was a great idea, the give-away is attracting criticism. Journalist Dan Warne made this comment on Long Zheng’s web site:
“This reeks of ‘crossing the line’ to me. It’s fair game for Microsoft to give away all the free software for review purposes it wants. It’s also fair enough to cover the travel and accommodation costs of journalists attending its promotional events and conferences. But giving away whole computers? Microsoft isn’t a computer company! It’s a bit like the owner of a motorway giving journalists free cars.”
The giveaway strategy is problematic at a number of levels.
First, as Warne points out, it’s unheard of for a software company to give away notebooks. In the ten years I’ve been writing about computers this is the first time I’ve heard of this kind of PR give away on this level.
Second, how many bloggers that have received a notebook but have not declared it on their blog? Quite a few I suggest, which highlights up the fundamental problem with blogging, which is that bloggers are not trained journalists and not necessarily in tune with the ethical problems that gifts, such as free notebooks, entail. Long Zheng, for example, treats the gift as though it is some kind of Christmas present.
Third, obviously not every blogger will receive a notebook, which means that some bloggers will feel that they’ve been overlooked. From a PR perspective, rather than creating positive “buzz”, this initiative will actually generate a lot of negative publicity – it’s very easy to criticize something you’re not part of.
Finally, sending bribes to bloggers is not a good look for Microsoft, and this is exactly how this initiative will be perceived. It’s interesting that even as Microsoft’s PR Gurus try to get a handle on the blogosphere, all that they actually do is to demonstrate how little they understand it.
This initiative will be prove to be damaging for Microsoft. No doubt we’ll all still buy Vista, but we’ll just be a little more suspicious about how Microsoft conducts itself as a corporate citizen.