I’m finding the brouhaha about Microsoft’s review laptops a bit of a yawn.Â Review hardware and software have been a fact of life in the technology industry for as long as I can remember.Â Junkets too.Â For the Windows 95 launch, for instance, press from all over the world congregated on the Redmond campus for a two day “reviewers workshop” months in advance of the story.Â I don’t remember who paid for the plane tickets, but we certainly fed and “watered” them.Â I remember another junket we organized where a bunch of English press folks ended up on a boat cruise on Lake Washington, boozing and eating at our expense.Â The boatÂ captain made some snide comments about the Bill Gates mansion (under construction at the time), perhaps not knowing whoÂ his guests were.Â Or what about the famous Area 51 events organized by the DirectX group?
And you know, despite all of theÂ schmoozing we did, the press wrote what they wanted to write.Â When we sucked, they wrote that we sucked.Â When we were great, they wrote that as well.Â The rules for which Microsoft bennies could be accepted varied from editorial room to editorial room, but in the end every writer understood that once they had compromised their credibility, they were finished.
Never once that I was aware of did we change the outcome of a review this way.Â And if Vista sucks, reviewers will write that too, Ferrari laptop or not.
I review a lot of products.Â I love seeing stuff early, and playing with new technology.Â It’s my nature.Â Early on in the life of this blog, I chatted with my friend Om Malik aboutÂ this very issue, who warned me to be carefulÂ to preserve myÂ credibility.Â I tookÂ his warningÂ to heart.
For what it’s worth, I’ve been given a fleet of Nokia phones over the past 12 months.Â Via several blogger relations programs, they’ve arrived,Â as has a web-cam, various bits of software, a GPS,Â a couple of Blackberries, a couple of headsets, and several accounts with prepaid amounts on different VoIP services.Â Â Â I’ve given them all balanced reviews.Â On one of the products I wrote an extremelyÂ poor review, published it, and mailed the person who sent me the product an apology — an apology that I had to write such a poor review, and a suggestion that he contact his client and encourage them to improve their products.Â In some cases, for small companies with especially bad products,Â I’ve refused to write the review at all and mailed the company back to tell them the issues I’ve experienced with the product.Â In those cases, I’ve offered to look at it again when they’ve fixed the issues.
I haven’t sent any of this stuff back, but if I was asked, would.Â Most of whatÂ I’ve received sits on a shelf after I’ve reviewed it.Â Some of the items I’ve given to others to use.
At the end of the day, I’m pretty comfortable in my skin.Â I think Jason Calacanis’ position extreme (and, I might add, just aÂ bitÂ self-serving and self-righteous).Â But you know,Â he builtÂ a business around blogs, and so maybe he feels it’s important to be that extreme.Â Â More power to him!Â That’s not, however, what I’m trying to do.Â As I’ve said many times before — this is my soapbox.Â If people don’t like what I write, or don’t think my positions are credible, they can unplug me fromÂ their RSS readers.Â Â Nobody hasÂ to read what I write.Â Moreover, neither my readers, norÂ the folks who send me their products to review are paying me to do this.Â I do it because I love doing it.
And so farÂ this month, 202,133 visitors from 59,959 individual sites haveÂ come toÂ see what I have to say as well.Â That’s upÂ nearly 600% from the beginning of the year.Â
It’s a formula that seems to be working.