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When Microsoft Wants To Bribe You

written by John Chow on December 28, 2006

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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?

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.

The resulting press over the laptop giveaway has made Microsoft a little red faced and now it looks like they want the laptop back.

You see, this is the problem with the Blogsphere – no one can keep their mouth shut when they’re handed a nice juicy bride! This is so unlike the Dot Com boom days when everyone knew the rules.

Microsoft Wanted To Change My Mind

John Chow at MS Headquaters

During the boom boom days (September, 2000 to be exact), one of my writers wrote some very nasty things about the then new MS Pocket PC. In a nutshell, he called it an overpriced MP3 player. Apparently the article caught the attention of the MS Pocket PC team and they weren’t very happy with it. So they blasted off an Email to me. My first thought, upon seeing an Email from Beth Goza, Product Manager for Pocket PC Development was, “Oh boy. I’m in trouble now.”

It turns out the Email was not so bad at all. Instead of chewing me out, Beth invited me to come on down to Microsoft (all expenses paid), where she would like to help change my mind about the Pocket PC.

The Mind Changing Begins

The Loot!

To help me see the true power of the Pocket PC, Microsoft gave me a bunch of toys to play with, including not one but two Pocket PCs! There was also a Pocket PC modem and LAN interface card, Sony head phone, software, 128 MB compact flash memory card (the biggest available during those days) and a bunch of other stuff. All in all I made off with an estimated $2,000 of loot.

Afterwards, MS took me on a trip to the Microsoft store where I was allowed to buy $60 worth of Microsoft products at employee prices. I picked up a full copy of Windows Me for $20, MS Streets & Trips 2001 for $15 and a MS Optical mouse for $25. I would have loved to get MS Office 2000 Premium but it cost $80 and was over my spending limit.

EMP

In the evening, Microsoft took me to the Experience Music Project. Located right next to the Space Needle in Seattle, the EMP is one strange looking building. Inside is the Turntable restaurant, where we had a great dinner, and a museum of music. We hung out at the EMP till 10:30 PM then it was back to the hotel.

Microsoft invited me to spend the rest of the weekend to enjoy Seattle on them, but I needed to get home to host my weekly LAN party. The driver picked me up at 7AM Saturday morning to take me to Sea Tac airport for my 30 minute flight home (or was it 15 minutes?).

Death To Palm!

Since my visit to the “Evil Empire,” the only hand held computers I have ever used has been Pocket PCs. I guess you can say Microsoft did a good job changing my mind.

I would like to formally state that Windows Vista is a piece of junk OS that has nothing going for it. You hear me Microsoft? It’s junk I tell you! However, if you want to send me a Ferrari laptop with Vista on it so I can try it out, I may change my mind. :)

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{ 35 comments }

dacholo December 28, 2006 at 11:06 pm

hmm, I’m actually surprised that you weren’t one of the bloggers who would receive one.

John Chow December 28, 2006 at 11:10 pm

While it may not seem like it, I am quite new to blogging. MS knows me for my review sites, not my blog.

Alex Becker December 28, 2006 at 11:22 pm

Nice tough at the end there John. Looking to get more goodies from Microsoft I see. :p

Alex Becker December 28, 2006 at 11:23 pm

touch*

Justin December 29, 2006 at 12:15 am

the end was the best part, good read.

Nomar December 29, 2006 at 1:03 am

hahaha, would be cool if they now send you a pocket pc with vista :D to change your mind

StrangeProgress December 29, 2006 at 2:13 am

Get their attention by ranking for some Vista search terms, with a lengthy diatribe on how you haven’t yet made up your mind, bla bla, it could go either way, but indicating that your legions of fans/readers are eager to take your advice…

If you rank high enough, and Vista traffic starts pouring in, 10:1 you’ll get a shiny red laptop in the mail! ;) Who knows, it might even be engraved “moto” hehe.

Matt

Leftblank December 29, 2006 at 2:17 am

I was surprised reading that they actually tried to convince you in the past, I didn’t know that was their style; especially not a couple of years ago.

On the Vista laptop, if you’re not even getting one, I doubt I’ll apply – too bad ;)

HMTKSteve December 29, 2006 at 2:24 am

I’ve written a few nasty articles about the Zune this year… Where’s my free stuff!

All kidding aside, I have been following this story and one thing I saw (in a quoted MS letter) was that they wanted either:

a) The PC back
b) Give it away

Weird huh? They just want the blogger to longer have the product. I guess giving it to your spouse would be ok?

One of my bloggers, Tom Vasel, routinely gets free board games as he reviews several every week!

John Chow December 29, 2006 at 4:38 am

Steve – You need to read between the lines. They don’t want it back. It’s “on loan” to you for as long as you want. When you no longer need it to review anymore, you can return it. Intel says the same thing when they send out new CPUs to review. No one ever returns them. It stills on loan forever.

Eliza December 29, 2006 at 5:15 am

Oh now here I was thinking that’s such a nice gesture sending something so expensive as a thank you whether you like it or not and you popped that bubble. Must turn it back in, only on loan. With my luck I’d end up with a bill if I kept it. Not so good and I’ve always loved Msoft, course that is the only company I know…well besides Dell but you don’t want to get me started on them.

Gdog December 29, 2006 at 5:22 am

Whoa…now that’s what you call trying to “change your mind”…let’s hope your Ferrari laptop comes! LOL!!

Eliza December 29, 2006 at 6:53 am

John have you read the latest on Microsoft, it seems now they are either wanting the machines back or want you to pass it along. Guess they got a little worried about the bad press going on.

Thomas Walker December 29, 2006 at 7:22 am

Yes, the reaction to their offer wasn’t great so it seems they’ve revised the “keep it” part of the deal. Most of the people offered them would’ve given it away anyway, or so they claim.

Andy December 29, 2006 at 7:27 am

I want free stuff… who to trash :)

mr_ombak December 29, 2006 at 7:27 am

john, you got 2 pocket pc’s. I ‘m just feel that one of that pocket-thing already in my pocket… hah..hah…hah…

what a hope…just kidding!

Tyler December 29, 2006 at 7:54 am

I want stuff for ‘on loan forever’. Or do I already get things like that? *poke stephen*

Anyway this is the one I read: http://laughingsquid.com/microsoft-sent-a-free-laptop-with-windows-vista/

And it seems that he doesn’t have any strings attached to his Ferrari Laptop, he mentioned he didn’t even have to write about it. Though of course he wrote about getting it.

Yan December 29, 2006 at 10:48 am

Some people are so damn carefree! and I’m still stuck wiz an MX200! :(

Michael Kwan December 29, 2006 at 12:19 pm

I write for Mobile Magazine so I get things to review from time to time (I’m writing this on a loaner Core 2 Duo laptop), and I’ve noticed the same thing about “on loan forever”. Some companies explicitly tell me when I should return it, others say return it when you’re ready, others still make no mention at all (so I keep it). I haven’t scored a $2k laptop yet, but I’ve gotten $100 earbuds and a $100 homebrew kit for the Nintendo DS.

John Chow December 29, 2006 at 12:29 pm

Eliza – MS really doesn’t want it back. They say to send it back but it’s all marketing speak. You can keep it for a long as you need because the product is on “permanent loan.” My notebook from MSI is also on permanent loan.

mr_ombak – MS sent me a total of 3 Pocket PC. The 3rd one came in the mail about a month after my trip to their headquarters. They said it was to help staff members change their minds. Then we won a 4th Pocket PC at an HP party during Comdex.

Tyler – Permanent loan is a pretty cool deal. I wonder if I can get a real Ferrari on permanent loan?

Andy December 29, 2006 at 1:34 pm

HaH – I am starting a car review sites
I need a few cars on “permanent loan”

Leftblank December 29, 2006 at 3:28 pm

I’m afraid the real interesting cars will be a tiny bit more expensive than the real interesting hardware ;)

Thomas Walker December 29, 2006 at 4:35 pm

Did MS manage to change your staff’s opinions? They’re not sending out the best message there by giving free valuables to their critics, won’t everyone start criticising them?

Thomas Walker December 29, 2006 at 4:59 pm

On the contrary though, offering free goods may help “sway” some of the most influential review sites with the greatest exposure. I guess they’ve succeeded in that they’ve generated publicity through your comments and follow up comments. But then again, is any publicity good publicity?

Techflock December 30, 2006 at 11:36 am

Hmm.. Wonder what they are gonna do with me – I trash everything that begins with M$ :)

Charles Hamel December 30, 2006 at 2:19 pm

From what I have been reading it is going to take a lot to change our minds about Vista, but I imagine there is a lot of hype and bashing involved also.

I think what’s hurting MS more than anything is the delays in Vista’s release.

The end of the article cracked me up, John you so crazy!!

David Mackey December 30, 2006 at 2:26 pm

I was very disappointed to hear all the rumble over Microsoft giving these laptops to reviewers. I think that was a bad mistake. Bloggers should be rewarded for taking the time to write reviews with free products, as you were. It may convince us the product is great, but this idea that the internet community needs to make sure no one writes anything the least bit biased by free stuff is really annoying me.

Thomas Walker December 30, 2006 at 3:28 pm

I think the “uproar” in the blogging community over the MS offer has been exaggerated. Why shouldn’t reviewers be rewarded? Especially if that persons blog is exposed to thousands worldwide.

Doug Karr December 30, 2006 at 3:31 pm

There are 2 issues I have with this entire flack:
1. That it’s somehow a ‘bribe’ to give away products to influencers.
2. That Microsoft quickly back-peddled from a great marketing campaign.

Even when I was at a newspaper, journalists often got freebies (not from advertisers… but from people who wanted reviews of their goods).

Instead of back-peddling, Microsoft should have really looked these folks in the eye and said, “So what?!”

Please add me to your mailing list, Microsoft

John Chow December 30, 2006 at 3:47 pm

This kind of stuff happen all the time in the review site world. The TechZone gets tons of free stuff and nobody raises an eyebrow. Now that it’s starting to happen it the blogging world, there’s a uproar because it’s new. MS didn’t do anything wrong – they’re just doing what they’ve always done!

Companies are starting to see value of blogs so you can expect to see more stuff like this in the future.

Sonia December 30, 2006 at 10:44 pm

Ya, Microsoft is very generous when it comes to their visitors. Did they show you a gallery of the abstract art they have? I saw several pieces in Xbox building and these were pretty damn good.

John Chow December 30, 2006 at 10:47 pm

At the time I visited, the Xbox wasn’t created yet. I did get to tour the MS Museum and saw the world’s first PC.

Leftblank December 31, 2006 at 2:05 am

I suppose you didn’t take any pictures there John? Would be surely nice to see.

Dian January 6, 2007 at 1:02 am

This Is The best Blog I’ve read from u john about reviewing something, damn, that’s the best closure i’ve read too. it’s a pity i read it too late. if weren’t coz the earthquake in taiwan i would read ur blog sooner. Thanks for the insight.

Jane January 14, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Hahaha…let us know when the Ferrari laptop with Vista comes in.