Microsoft Says No Favorable Coverage Expected In Laptop Giveaway

Recipients encouraged to disclose receiving the expensive computers, which were intended to solicit "valuable feedback" from the influential tech bloggers, says company
Microsoft and Advanced Micro Devices sent expensive laptops as gifts to select bloggers who review technology as part of an effort to solicit "valuable feedback" from the influential writers in the blogosphere, not to encourage favorable coverage, Microsoft says.

The giveaway, which started last week, has sparked a debate among tech bloggers as to the motive for handing out the top-of-the-line Acer Ferrari laptops, valued at more than $2,200. While some called it a bribe, others believed it was OK to receive the expensive gift, as long as the blogger disclosed receiving it.

Microsoft said in a statement e-mailed late Thursday that the recipients were told they could keep the computers, give them away, or send them back. They were also encouraged to disclose receiving the gifts, which were pre-loaded with Windows Vista and were powered by an AMD Turion 64-bit processor. Vista, a major upgrade of Microsoft's operating system, is scheduled to ship to consumers late next month.

"Microsoft sent out machines loaded with Windows Vista to bloggers to encourage them to experience the product and to solicit their valuable feedback, offering full disclosure that no editorial commentary was expected as a condition of acceptance," the company said.

Microsoft chose recipients based on their level of influence within the blogosphere, a company spokeswoman said Friday. Some of the bloggers receiving the laptops wrote on technology related to specific areas that were a focus of Vista, such as online video or photography.

Blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick, director of content at pre-launch startup SplashCast, reported Thursday that Microsoft and AMD were asking recipients to send back the laptops following the negative publicity. The Microsoft spokeswoman, however, said that wasn't the case, explaining that an e-mail sent to recipients from a company employee had been misinterpreted.

The giveaway was first reported by Microsoft blogger Long Zheng. The report was later posted on the popular technology Web site Slashdot under the headline, "Microsoft Bribing Bloggers With Laptops."

Because of the controversy, San Francisco blogger Scott Beale said he would sell the laptop on eBay and donate the proceeds to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group focusing on privacy and free speech on the Internet.

"I'm not really the right person to do a proper review of Windows Vista, and at this point, it is still unclear why I was even selected to receive it," Beale said in his blog.

However, blogger Mauricio Freitas, who lives in New Zealand, saw no problems with keeping the machine. "I maintain my independence by making it clear which companies are sponsoring this review unit," he said.