Microsoft's efforts to build momentum for Windows Vista with the blogging community seem to have backfired – on the bloggers.
Several bloggers received brand-new Acer Ferrari laptops with Windows Vista pre-installed last week, with reports suggesting as many as 90 systems were sent out by Microsoft in an effort to educate influential bloggers about the new OS.
But while the move was initially welcomed by the recipients, it wasn’t long before visitors to the blogs opened fire on what was seen by many as a cynical PR move designed by Microsoft to gain favour with critics.
"This reeks of 'crossing the line' to me," said one comment on the blog of Long Zheng a teenage blogger living in Australia who was sent one of the AMD-based laptops. "It comes across as nothing more than a bribe."
Long Zeng's post announcing the arrival of his Acer machine had received 192 comments by Tuesday morning.
Another recipient of a free laptop, Brandon LeBlanc, was told via his blog: "Looks like you just lost all your credibility – who will trust anything MS-related you say after this?"
Meanwhile, one comment on Scott Beale's blog described the move as "bribery", as well as evidence of the growing importance Microsoft places on the blogging community: "As bloggers gain influence, big companies like Microsoft are starting to treat them as they would treat any influential publication – they will try to bribe them."
Since the controversy erupted last week, there has been some confusion as to bloggers’ obligations regarding the laptops. A Microsoft employee reportedly emailed the recipients of the laptops, suggesting they should give them away once they'd finished reviewing Vista, yet a follow-up email reportedly claims the bloggers are entitled to keep the systems.