In a blogger outreach move that has become pretty typical, Microsoft (through its PR firm Edelman) has given out about 90 laptops loaded with the new Windows Vista operating system for evaluation.
In response to a post by Long Zheng, a firememe was sparked discussing whether accepting the evaluation computers is ethical and if bloggers should abide by the same rules as journalists, who are restricted from accepting expensive gifts from companies they are covering.
The coverage by the bloggers has been picked up by Techmeme, Tailrank, Digg, and Slahdot.
I personally think that evaluation copies of a product are a legitimate way to let interested parties test a new product.
That said, from a public relations perspective, I wonder if this was the best way to approach the tech bloggers, who are know to be uber-sensitive about anything that resembles PR. Beale mentions that the team at Microsoft-Edelman might have asked the bloggers if they wanted the machines. Not a bad idea. But then again, when you only send out 90 machines, there are plenty of bloggers who didn’t get them to throw stones. I wonder if there will be as visible coverage of the Vista operating system as there was about the evaluation computers.