It's well known now that Microsoft, in collaboration with AMD, gave away some 90 laptop computers with Windows Vista installed, to some lucky bloggers.
The other day, I had a chat with CNet blogger, Jeff Ooi, about this. The first question I asked him was whether he knew of any Malaysians who received Microsoft laptops. He said that as far as he knew, none. It was probably just for American bloggers.
He then asked me whether it was ethical for bloggers to receive such expensive gifts.
There are several dimensions to this. First of all, it should be said that it's clearly not ethical for journalists to accept expensive gifts.
Of course this naturally begs the question, what constitutes an expensive gift?
When uncertain, a journalist should simply declare any proposed gifts of significant value to their editors, who would advise them accordingly.
Now, let's look specifically at the case of the Microsoft free gift. Most bloggers are not journalists, and thus are not bound to follow journalism ethics.
That said, if they want to be transparent, in order to maintain or bolster their credibility amongst their readers, what they should do is make a full disclosure on their blog that they've received from an evaluation computer from Microsoft with Vista installed, and that they intend to keep it.
If they did that, there'd be no ethical issue involved.