Redmond, VA: With the Vista OS consumer launch less than a month away, Microsoft and PR firm Edelman began a program which involved gifting Vista-loaded PCs to select bloggers.
The campaign attracted critics, who took issue with some of the implementations of the initiative, which intends to get bloggers talking about the technical aspects of the software.
Edelman chose 90 bloggers, asking them if they wanted to receive an Acer Ferrari laptop loaded with the new Vista software to review. Edelman disclosed its relationship with Microsoft, reportedly offered no review ultimatums to the recipients, and told bloggers they could return the laptop, donate it to readers, or keep it.
Rick Murray, president of Edelman's Me2Revolution, said the firm covered all disclosure bases.
"We basically did this 'no strings attached' with the hope that people would provide us fair feedback," he said. "The reality is, from the standpoint of ethics and disclosure, we did this by the book."
Waggener Edstrom is Microsoft's AOR for Vista and Office products, but Edelman was hired in October to lead Vista's global consumer launch. A source at WE said it was not involved in this effort.
Controversy arose after some bloggers mentioned their new laptops without initially disclosing that they were gifts from Microsoft and circuit manufacturer AMD.
Fueling the discussion, a number of bloggers criticized the tactic for other reasons, namely, that by gifting computers that retail for up to $2,200, Microsoft obscured how Vista would work on a more widely used computer.
One recipient, Michael Arrington, editor of TechCrunch, wrote: "It's a kick-ass operating system. If you happen to be running it on a $4,000 computer, at least."
Regarding that charge, Murray said: "They definitely were great laptops that were sent out. I can't really comment on the hardware, but [Vista] does require a more recent machine to operate very well."
As for the concern that the gift, even if it could be returned, might unduly influence bloggers to post positive reviews, Murray said, "Any blogger worth [their] salt is going to write fact and not fiction."
Murray said, in part, the furor could have something to do with the limited scope of the campaign.
He added, "I think the reality is, when you handpick a small group of people out of 55 million bloggers, [many will] be less than happy with the solution."