The Lite Side

How the Microsoft-Ferrari Fiasco Plays Out in the Media

- 2007.01.02

Microsoft's gone and done it again. They've managed to turn a mildly disturbing PR stunt - giving laptops to influential bloggers in hopes of garnering some positive Vista reviews - into a full-blown fiasco without even trying.

Free Ferrari notebook computer for bloggers courtesy of Microsoft

You, gentle readers, know how we like to ride the downhill part of a crested net phenomena here at the Lite Side, so the fact that you're reading this means the brouhaha has mostly blown away like the leaves you didn't bother raking up because you'll know they'll blow into your neighbor's yard overnight.

The only thing left is to pick at the scraps, and that's why the Lite Side presents (while channeling the Voice of Rush Limbaugh)

How the Microsoft-Ferrari Fiasco Plays Out in the Media

Let's assume for the moment that the 90 pundits who got the free laptops in the first place must be analyzed separately.

How many online writers are we talking about all together, including the non-Ferrari-worthy?

Well, there are perhaps 200 Mac-related websites, based on past editions of Low End Mac's Best of the Mac Web surveys. Assuming that the Windows market is perhaps twenty times the size of the Mac market, that implies approximately 4,000 websites with one or more writers that occasionally concern themselves with operating systems. (The Linux and other OS market probably has a chunk of space unique to them as well, but lacking any way of judging how many, I'll assume there's perhaps an equivalent number of Linux sites as Mac sites, so perhaps 4,400 sites all together.)

Here at Low End Mac, there are maybe a dozen writers, but I suspect we're a little larger than the average "blog". Your typical blog site is just one guy, counterbalanced by perhaps a few of the juggernauts with dozens of writers; perhaps the average is something like 2.5 writers per site.

That gives around 11,000 writers who go online regularly to talk about events in the computing world. We're not talking about gamers or cross-stitch sites. We're not talking about people placing bets or triggering the NSFW filters while surfing on the job. Just people who mouth off about computing and operating systems.

Of these 11,000 writers, 9,000 of them Windows users, around 90 got freebie laptops with "Vista Ultimate" preinstalled.

Of the Ferrari-worthy, there will be those who got laptops and were pleased, but then got angry when Microsoft asked for them to be returned.

Logically there were some few pundits who got laptops and felt like they were being bribed - then subsequently ripped off when Microsoft asked for them to be returned.

Of course, there are probably a few who are on the tail-end of the Ferrari-worthy curve who felt lucky to get a laptop to review in the first place and either missed or ignored the flip flops about the fiasco.

Let's say 50 of them were pleased and forgave Microsoft the transgression and 40 were annoyed and insulted by the whole thing. That's from the Department of Pulling Numbers Out of My . . . Pocket, in case you need to cite a reference.

Now of the Non-Ferrari-worthy....

Anyone who has an opinion they share with the public about Vista would be ticked off at not being considered as influential or pliable enough to be Ferrari-worthy. Let's say 25% of the population of pundits falls into this category.

Of the remainder, a significant fraction are pissed that Microsoft would give anyone a laptop for free, essentially spoiling the sanctity of the independent review process. Say another 25%.

Then there are those who are annoyed that this PR expense gets passed on to us (10%), annoyed at looking foolish for defending the process prior to the pullback (15%), mad because they don't care and are tired of people asking them about it (5%), and 20% are angry because the entire fiasco reminds them that they can't afford an upgrade for a Vista-ready system in this fiscal year.

Let's see, that leaves 10%. Okay, say 5% really and truly don't care and 3% are fanboys who agree with everything Redmond says. Oh, and 2% are disgusted by drek like this article that are side effects of the entire fiasco.

That means 92% of available pundits will have been touched by this flop in a negative way, for a total of 8,280 ticked off Windows pundits - plus the 40 who actually got the laptops.

That means that Microsoft made 50 happy reviewers at the cost of 8,320 ticked-off ones. Multiplied by the audience, that means perhaps 50,000 readers of the Powerful Ferrarri-worthy Reviewers (at 10,000 each, since they're supposedly power influencers) compared to perhaps 4 million readers of the ticked-off ones (at 500 readers each, a slow day at Low End Mac).

Four million readers is big enough, barely, to scrape off the scum obscuring the radar of mainstream media.

You like that metaphor, folks? Well, that's what you get here at the Lite Side - top-quality metaphors. Nothing but the best for my True Believers.

"What's that?" Katie Couric will ask, pointing at some large clothes-washing device.

"Just a ripple in the blogosphere," some producer will mumble, and then a third-rate tech who is just happening to install some ethernet patch cable in the computer TelePromptTer will mumble something about a "fiasco" at Microsoft PR, and then Couric will increase the gain on the radar while defocusing it, and it will get added to the tease before the second commercial break.

Unless Castro dies suddenly or some kitten is rescued from a snowdrift in Toledo, the item will get 40 seconds after a Microsoft Zune commercial on a Thursday evening two weeks after the fiasco actually occurred.

Nevertheless, the MSM's huge audience will ensure at least a fraction of them will become slightly more annoyed at Redmond for the clumsy way this was handled, for it enables those snotty Mac-using friends at the office to have One More Thing that proves Microsoft is Evil.

If it weren't for this, you would never hear about it, because as we all know the Mainstream Medium (as we like to call them here at the Lite Side) never ever says anything nice about the Redmond Giants.

At it's peak following dinner on Thursday, nearly 40 million people will be mildly annoyed at Microsoft, at which point the guy in charge of the PR department that started this whole thing will suddenly need to pursue other interests involving a tech startup firm planning to reintroduce "push" technology with the Pointcast logo on the new Vista-driven dashboard rip-off widget.

In the ensuing congressional hearings, some Republican senator (probably McConnell from Kentucky) will make a weak analogy between the gifts of laptops and the legally allowable third-party sponsorship of political ads that the candidates have no control over - such as the one McConnell himself denied having anything to do with that helped him get elected in the last cycle - and the entire thing will have dispersed and attenuated into the public consciousness, thinning and weakening as it goes, such that by now that no one will care except for . . . me.

At which point I'll write another article about it, just to keep you, gentle readers, well informed, as I always do, here on the EIP (Excellence in Punditry) network.

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