I’ve been reading the classic blogger tempest in a teapot about Microsoft’s PR agency of record, Edelman, sending out about 90 fancy Ferrari laptops preloaded with Windows Vista to high-profile bloggers and have been amazed that even the most visible of bloggers have missed the real story, the significance of the effort.
From What PC, InformationWeek and PC World to individual bloggers like Om Malik, Jason Calacanis, Robert Scoble, etc etc. just about everyone seems to feel that the issue here is ethics, but it’s not.
Let me be direct: There is no ethical issue associated with a vendor giving product to thought and opinion leaders in a marketplace.
In fact, the ethical firestorm is trivially solved by something we’ve all talked about before, the idea of a blogger disclosure best practices agreement that we subscribe to collectively. [see my earlier articles pay me to blog and Edelman screws up, for example] If I had received a laptop, all I have to do is say “hey, got a laptop and here’s what I found…”
But, as I said, that’s not the story. The real story on this laptop giveaway is what it tells us about Microsoft Vista itself…
Think about this: Microsoft dropped about $1500/laptop * 90 laptops + shipping (my rough estimate puts that at a little less than $150,000) to get some positive digital ink. That’s a fairly expensive campaign for the blogosphere, and by comparison if we assume that their boxed Vista product costs them about $20/unit, that same $150,000 could have been spent on seeding Vista to about 7500 bloggers.
Microsoft and Edelman didn’t send out boxes with the OS DVD, though, did they?
And so, the question that I’m amazed that no blogger seems to have asked is why didn’t they send out the OS and let us install it on our own computers?
The answer, once you think about things this way, is obvious, and that’s the real story here:
Microsoft Vista is in fact a bear to install and has prohibitive hardware requirements.
That’s the only conclusion I can draw, because if it were a breeze to upgrade from WinXP to Windows Vista, with all your apps backwards compatible, all your data intact, and all your files untouched, you’d be happy to install Vista on your existing PC and enjoy the new OS.
Heck, if it’s just memory that’s a challenge, Microsoft could also have sent out a $50 gift certificate for an online computer memory store, and still impacted thousands of influential tech bloggers in a far less overt way. Again, they didn’t do that, did they? So perhaps it’s not just about the memory in your PC.
I really think that Microsoft has a major challenge on its hands, a challenge quite akin to the difficult Apple transition from MacOS 9 to Mac OS X, where apps were obsoleted, older computers suddenly were incapable of running the new OS acceptably, and where users were loath to upgrade. It took a few years before the majority of Apple computers were running Mac OS X, and there are still plenty of MacOS 9 systems out there.
A glance in my Ask Dave Taylor question queue and I can see that there are still lots of people running Windows Me and even Windows 98, even though Windows XP has been out for quite a few years now.
The challenge that any new OS release creates is are users going to upgrade? and without a strong benefit, it’s hard to overcome momentum. That’s exactly what I believe is the challenge here with Vista, and I believe that’s the real message of the fancy Acer Ferrari laptop distribution with Vista pre-installed. It’s not an ethical problem with bloggers, it’s an adoption problem with the overall user community.
Of course, there’s another way to look at this: if you’re a tech blogger have you requested a copy of Microsoft Vista, received it, and installed it on your computer? Or even gotten an indication from Microsoft / Edelman that you’re in the queue for a copy of the new OS?
Me? I didn’t get a Vista laptop, though I would have been quite interested in putting it through its paces and producing some how-to materials on my tech support blog. I’m much more interested in getting a new MacBook Pro, installing Parallels, and then installing Vista therein, so I can have it running along with Windows XP and Mac OS X, all on the same box. What’s not to love about that?