I think Joel is being a bit naive when he claims that Microsoft’s gifting of free laptops to some popular bloggers is ethically equivalent to bribery. A person’s opinion is fully owned by them and only has value if it is respected. Any individual’s opinion of a software product is going to be colored by their opinion of the company that produced it. I think that MS may be helping the targeted bloggers’ opinions of Microsoft as a company, but if the bloggers in question are worth listening to, it will only have a small impact on their opinion of Vista in particular.
Joel goes as far as saying “These gifts reduce the public trust in blogs.” What utopia does he think he lives in? Anyone with Internet access can start a blog, and the net-savvy do not trust what they read on blogs in general. Unless you are still wet behind the ears, you know not to trust any one source for information and any blogger (working for ANY company) must continually earn your trust.
The individual rules that make up the nebulous set of ideas and ideals we call Ethics are not set it stone, they evolve over time. However, the ethics of reviewing hardware and software for publication are pretty well established and in my opinion Scoble hits the mark when he says that full disclosure is all that is required.
[tags]microsoft, vista, reviews, ethics, bribery[/tags]