Microsoft Gives Free Laptops to Bloggers

One of the little publicized facts of the technology industry is that manufacturers and distributors routinely send out review hardware to press outlets, influential media figures, and others as a way to get publicity and raise awareness of their products. Many of these exchanges are on the up-and-up: journalists have to sign review agreements to return the units in a certain amount of time, and sometimes even provide credit information in the event the item is damaged or stolen. However, some manufacturers—particularly of low-cost or commodity items—don’t care if the review units are returned, and sometimes items just arrive unsolicited: marketing and PR people are taking the chance that jut putting a product in proximity to a publisher or reviewer will make good things happen.

As common as these practices are, they create a bit of conundrum for journalists, since keeping or selling the items is effectively accepting a bribe and raises interesting ethical and tax issues.

This week, Microsoft has been rather publicly “outed” for sending full-loaded Acer Ferrari notebook computers pre-loaded with Windows Vista Ultimate and Office 2007 to selected high-profile bloggers. Microsoft contacted the bloggers directly and offered the “review units” with no strings attached, saying bloggers could write about them (or not), return the systems (or not), or give away the notebooks on their sites. Of course, since Vista is not yet available to consumers and a high-end laptop with everything pre-installed is a tempting offer, many of the bloggers jumped.

Some critics have argued Microsoft’s practice is unethical; ethics aside, it certainly isn’t uncommon in the technology industry, and is no doubt viewed by many as a savvy public relations move. A more pressing concern might be when reviewers fail to disclose how they receive review units, the terms attached to them, and any other conflicts of interest associated with their work. At least most of the bloggers Microsoft contacted have been up-front (even giddy) about their newfound boons; several say they plan to return the units to Microsoft.

Microsoft and PR firm Edelman have refused to say how many laptops were given to bloggers, or the units’ value. Published reports have the number of systems between 80 and 100, with street prices ranging frm $2,000 to $2,4000 apiece.

(As a rule, I rarely review hardware or software, but, for the record, any review items I receive are either returned to the manufacturer or, with permission, donated to a charity or user group, and I disclose any relationship with the manufacturer or developer in the text of the review.)

Deals

From Air to Pro, here are the best MacBook deals for March 2019

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (March 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Computing

Go hands-free in Windows 10 with speech-to-text support

Looking for the dictation, speech-to-text, and voice control options in Windows 10? Here's how to set up Speech Recognition in Windows 10 and use it to go hands-free in a variety of different tasks and applications within Windows.
Computing

Get the most out of your high-resolution display by tweaking its DPI scaling

Windows 10 has gotten much better than earlier versions at supporting today's high-resolution displays. If you want to get the best out of your monitor, then check out our guide on how to adjust high-DPI scaling in Windows 10.
Deals

Looking for a Chromebook? The Google PixelBook just got a $200 price cut

Once relatively obscure, Chromebooks have come into their own in a big way in recent years. One of our favorites is the super-sleek Google Pixelbook, and it's on sale right now from Amazon for $200 off, letting you score this premium laptop…
Mobile

Got gadgets galore? Keep them charged up with the 10 best USB-C cables

We're glad to see that USB-C is quickly becoming the norm. That's why we've rounded up some of the better USB-C cables on the market, whether you're looking to charge or sync your smartphone. We've got USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A.
Computing

Nvidia’s GTX 1650 graphics card could be just a slight upgrade over the 1050 Ti

Rumors suggest Nvidia might soon launch the GTX 1650, and a leaked benchmark listing from Final Fantasy XV suggests that the new graphics card could be just a slight upgrade over last generation's GTX 1050 Ti. 
Computing

Get ready to say goodbye to some IFTTT support in Gmail by March 31

If This Then That, the popular automation service, will drop some of its support for Gmail by March 31. The decision comes as a response to security concerns and is aimed to protect user data.
Computing

Get the new Dell XPS 13 for $750 with this limited-time deal

Dell is currently running a limited time deal lasting through Thursday, March 28, where you can bring home a version of this year's new XPS 13 for around $750 with the use of a special coupon code. 
Mobile

This is the easiest way to save your iPhone data to your computer

Living in fear of losing your contacts, photos, messages, and notes on your iPhone? Fear no more -- in this guide, we'll break down exactly how to back up your iPhone to your computer using Apple's iTunes or to the cloud with iCloud.
Mobile

Here are the best iPad Pro keyboard cases to pick up with your new tablet

The iPad Pro range can double as laptops, but they do need proper keyboards to fill in effectively. Thankfully, there are loads to choose from and we rounded up the best iPad Pro keyboard cases right here.
Computing

Microsoft’s Clippy came back from the dead, but didn’t last very long

Before Cortana, Alexa, and Siri even existed, Microsoft Clippy dominated the screens of computers in the 1990s to help assist Microsoft Office users when writing letters. He recently made a bit of a comeback only to die off again.