Microsoft bribes again?

My former colleague, Joe Wilcox, observes that he doesn't think it's a big deal that Microsoft handed out laptops to bloggers, analysts and reviewers loaded with the Windows 7 alpha. He adds that "All week, I have watched for someone to raise a fuss and hoped that no one would." Wilcox then added that, last time around when Microsoft did this with Vista, that Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols "joined the chorus of critics calling the laptops bribes," while he had defended Microsoft's practice.

There's a reason why I haven't called these laptops bribes. I wasn't at Microsoft's PDC (Professional Developers' Conference) in Los Angles and I hadn't heard that Microsoft was once more handing out bribes.

Now if Microsoft was just loaning laptops for the show, fine. After all how many people -- beside someone like me -- bring test systems to install new operating systems on to a trade show?

But if, as 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?

I would be. Which is one reason why I don't accept expensive gifts, free hardware, work, or stock from any company that I cover. I also, for the record don't own any stock in Red Hat, Novell, Sun, Microsoft, or any other company I write about. You may disagree with my opinions, but you can be sure that they're my opinions based on what I've actually seen and experienced rather than because I feel I owe some company anything.

Indeed, now that I know that most, if not all, of those glowing words about Windows 7, were written on identical hand-picked systems loaded with Windows 7, I'm personally much more suspicious about Windows 7 than I was before. Of course it worked great on those systems! After the Vista fiasco, would Microsoft have handed over PCs to writers unless they knew they would work perfectly?

Now, instead of thinking, as I had before, that Windows 7 might actually be a step up, I'm back to my default position with Microsoft's offerings: "Show me that this isn't junk." From where I sit, there's not a whole lot of difference between these systems and a rigged demo.

Take Linux for example. Even now Linux doesn't work perfectly with all PCs. Most PCs yes, all PCs no. But, let me pick out a system and I guarantee you 100% of the time you'll have a perfect Linux desktop experience. The difference is that I'm an expert pointing you to a good machine; I'm not Microsoft trying to con you into believing that your experience on this one system is representative of what Windows 7 will be like on most systems.

I should have known that all that praise for Windows 7 was too good to be true. Once more Microsoft is stacking the deck. How utterly unsurprising.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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