Hardware Testing Samples For The Computer Press - How Do These Guys Get Them?
The last thing I would like to mention is something I think you should be aware of too. How come that some computer journalists are testing yet unreleased hardware and how do they get it?
I don't know what your own idea about this subject is, but I can tell you one thing for sure. Ringing the company and asking for one is not exactly the way it works. Especially Intel would probably answer with a 2 hour lasting laugh. They actually once received an email from me regarding this subject, but I never got a reply.
Now the computer press is a tough business too. I had to learn this in Germany, where one magazine I used to be loosely affiliated with is the market leader, another magazine was however helping me more without any official affiliation, which is the number two. The market leader magazine does a pretty good job to show everyone, that its competitors are just second class. As the market leader it also didn't need to really support me, since having their logo on my home page is something I am benefiting from and not vice versa. They however disapproved it a whole lot, when I started to get in contact with the other very helpful 'No.2' magazine and showed me fairly well how wrong my decision was to work with this second class organ.
I don't want to get into more detail, but I can tell you that I learned a whole lot whilst caught in between them. The most important thing I've learned is that you'd almost kill for getting a hardware product for testing first, since this is like being the first to write a story in the normal journalism.
Getting an Intel product before its release date means that at least somebody has to do something against the law. There are always companies that get samples of Intel products for engineering the hardware around it much sooner than the product will be released. These companies have to sign a 'non disclosure agreement', short 'NDA', which doesn't allow them to give this product or even information about this product to anybody else. Of course it doesn't quite work the way it should, and especially companies that are unhappy with Intel give these samples away in secrecy. Therefore being the first computer press organ to publish it depends on two things. You have to have good contacts to these sources and you of course have to protect them, you have to have the guts to publish this information because the manufacturer of this sample will highly disapprove this.
It doesn't really have to be that way, because there are indeed companies which give you samples pre-release just the legal way. Unfortunately Intel is not one of them. They wouldn't give you test samples of anything even post-release, unless you just buy them. This is their prerogative as market leader and, well, they obviously get away with it. Now this of course is also making some problems for Intel. If a journalist gets a pre-release product through some dark sources, he obviously isn't bound to any NDA. Hence he can publish it straight away unless he is fearing the anger of big brother. Companies that give journalists the products can afford to ask you to please not publish any hard benchmark results before the release date and if you as a journalist want to take advantage of this kind of procedure another time, you should apply to this request. This has several benefits, for the manufacturer as well as for the journalist and public. The manufacturer knows which samples went to whom and he can rely on the non-disclosure of benchmark results before the official release. The journalist can at least publish trends about the product before the release date and hence the public knows at least something about the product beforehand, which might be more reliable because the sample the journalist received is most likely a decent one.
This is what happened between AMD and me. I'll receive a sample from them and they asked me not to publish benchmark data before 4/2/97.
Maybe Intel will change their way of getting along with the press now after all these nasty things happened, and maybe in future there will be an enjoyable way for the press to deal with the market leader. This includes being able to live with negative reviews. After all AMD did certainly not ask me to write a 'nice' review. They have taken the chance to get a negative review as well as me not complying to their ND request.