Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft is Bribing Bloggers Again... for Vista 7 Raves

Taking a buck (bribe)



Vista 7, which is also commonly known as "Mojave" (Vista 6, aka "Longhorn" renamed), has already received some negative response, but Microsoft is trying to police perceptions and coverage of Vista 7 by blacklisting journalists. At the same time, the company is offering $15,000 for Mac bloggers to trash Apple. It's akin to a totalitarian regime trying to restrict the use of the word "democracy" and daemonising or imprisoning its vocal critics. It's actually not far from that.



Microsoft tried similar tricks when Vista 6, aka "Longhorn", make its early appearance. Without request, Microsoft decided to send influential bloggers some very expensive gifts. Joel Spolsky, a former manager at Microsoft, called it a bribe. SJVN, a respected journalist in many publications, called it a bribe as well. Microsoft did all this for positive publicity. There are three reasons for this strategy:

  1. Bloggers will judge the operating system based on personal experience with an optimised, pre-configured and high-end machine


  2. Bloggers are likely to feel obliged to offer positive words in exchange for the gifts


  3. Microsoft decides who gets a hand on preview versions and thus who gets to instruct on it in blogs. First/early impressions count.


The storm which came after Microsoft's latest round of bribery almost led to boycotts from big publications. Edelman is one example.

Did Microsoft learn its lessons from the previous complications? It most certainly did not. It is doing it again, but as usual, there are many forms of bribery and different words to describe (or embellish) it.

...[A]s appears may be the case Microsoft is letting people have Dell XPS M1330 laptops with 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processors and 3GBs of RAM on 'indefinite loans (wink, wink) then it's a bribe in my book. What do you think? If you knew someone had been given a PC with a list price of $1,956 and then wrote nice things about the operating system that came with it would you be inclined to think that they might be just a wee bit influenced by the almost two grand worth of computer?


So here is a company that sells software but gives not software as a gift (or a sample). It gives $2000 laptops. It might as well cover people's mortgages for positive reviews.

Bernard Swiss wrote the following about possible intentions:

It's still a way of predetermining what hardware the reviewers will be running their alpha and beta releases on, and thus biases the coverage even of most of the honest reviewers.


It's situations like this which show why Microsoft cannot be reformed. It knows that what it's doing is wrong, but it's doing it over and over again. The OOXML fiasco was a good and recent example.

"I've been thinking long and hard about this, and the only conclusion I can come to is that this is ethically indistinguishable from bribery. Even if no quid-pro-quo is formally required, the gift creates a social obligation of reciprocity. This is best explained in Cialdini's book Influence (a summary is here). The blogger will feel some obligation to return the favor to Microsoft."

--Former Microsoft manager

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