Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Patents Microsoft The Almighty Buck News

Microsoft Invents Price-Gouging the Least Influential 259

theodp writes "In the world envisioned by Microsoft's just-published patent application for Social Marketing, monopolists will maximize revenue by charging prices inversely related to the perceived influence an individual has on others. Microsoft gives an example of a pricing model that charges different people $0, $5, $10, $20, or $25 for the identical item based on the influence the purchaser wields. A presentation describing the revenue optimization scheme earned one of the three inventors applause (MS-Research video), and the so-called 'influence and exploit' strategies were also featured at WWW 2008 (PDF). The invention jibes nicely with Bill Gates's pending patents for identifying influencers. Welcome to the brave new world of analytics."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft Invents Price-Gouging the Least Influential

Comments Filter:
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:38PM (#30417460)
    Bill Gates also used to think his MSN proprietary network paywall would have more success than any silly Internet thingie. What he fails to realize is than in an Internet era, where price information travels rapidly, prices converge towards fixed prices. Not this drivel.

    Isn't this a business method patent?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jhoegl ( 638955 )
      Here is the scenario Microsoft is working on. People will buy their software online, retailers will offer it as well but MS will make them charge more than online citing "expense reduction" due to not having to make physical items. Microsoft will have your information, requiring you to put in your information including job info. They will also scan the web using their search engine to find out if you are "influential" and then based on that sell you the product at an increasingly lower cost. They will be
      • by Presto Vivace ( 882157 ) <ammarshall@vivaldi.net> on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:03PM (#30417678) Homepage Journal
        I would assume that the open source movement has a mole within Microsoft, because this looks like a big win for open source software.
        • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @07:14PM (#30418204)
          this is exactly what the US Congress has been doing for years (Price-Gouging the Least Influential).
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            if I had mod points I would rate this funny. Hilarious!
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by jc42 ( 318812 )

              I don't have mod points right now, either. So I'll just add that the joke about Congress is just one of many example of "prior art" that might be used to disqualify this patent.

              Another well-known example of this process is the common practice in the food industry of having higher prices (and lower quality) in inner-city stores than in the same chain's suburban stores. The chain stores know that the poorer people can't afford to do price shopping like the more affluent people do, so they can get away with

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Microsoft is widely misunderstood. It is not primarily a software company. It is an abuse company that uses software to deliver abuse.

        That's my opinion, and the opinion of millions of others, it seems.

        Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reportedly has little or no technical knowledge. Could someone with no technical knowledge make a high-tech company profitable without an abusive virtual monopoly?

        Steve Ballmer, As Portrayed by 80 Blue Screens of Death [macobserver.com]
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:53PM (#30417592)

      It think the point of this patent is that those people who are "less influential" will not have the means to tell the world they have been ripped off.

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:00PM (#30417644)

        When you have many "less influential" people talking to each other and complaining about the same thing, you suddenly have an "influential" mob

      • The problem is (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 )

        With the Internet, everyone has a voice. Everyone is not equal, but everyone has a voice. There are so many places, forums on sites like this being the best example, where people can express themselves that even if you are completely non-influential online in general terms, your voice can be heard by millions. Also someone who isn't influential can suddenly become influential. My website is not influential, it isn't intended to be, few people come to it unless they are after something in particular on there

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        And what about people who try to be anonymous? Will the prices for them act as a "list price" -- a price so high no one pays it, except for those unwilling to give up their anonymity? This sounds like bad news.
    • Maybe they've wrapping it in a new packing, but this doesn't seem very different from the way it's always been - you have those who pay full price, those who get rebates, those who get promotional copies for free and those you have to sponsor, that is to say pay just to use your product and it's all a sliding scale. Like a friend of mine, he's often organizing dinners and such and when he's there alone items will "disappear" off the bill. Why? Because he'll be bringing in a bunch of people who'll spend a lo

      • by BrianRoach ( 614397 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:14PM (#30417776)

        Exactly. I also don't see where this is new or innovative, except that it's (presumably) on a large scale.

        When I ran a motorcycle shop, we did this all the time. You know the local customers who bring in other business, often times not even consciously ... they do this because they have a "social influence". So ... you give them cheaper prices. The business they bring in more than offsets that discount.

        With amateur racing, it's called "sponsorship" even if you're not giving things to racers for free. Give a fast guy parts at dealer cost and a break on labor, and he tells other racers how great your are.

        In the "big leagues", companies PAY people to use their products because, well, most people are sheep and buy stuff simply because some "star" wears / uses it.

        Nothing new to see here, move along.

        • by umghhh ( 965931 )
          Interesting question would be: can you buy stuff that is not worn/used by a "star"? I have impression that the answer here would be flat 'no' so what this means we are all shepple and if you are concious or not it simply makes no difference anymore - all is commerce.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by BrianRoach ( 614397 )

            I don't think the clothes I buy at Target are worn by a "star" ... but I could be wrong, mainly because I don't pay attention to such things. I buy clothes there because ... I like the styles, and the prices are cheap. I discovered this simply by walking past them in the store.

            Which brings us to your point. I don't think we're all sheep simply because a product we purchase employs a specific marketing tactic. It's sort of a "If a tree fell" scenario - how am I a sheep when I don't know that some cultural i

            • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:01AM (#30420156) Homepage

              I don't think the clothes I buy at Target are worn by a "star" ... but I could be wrong, mainly because I don't pay attention to such things. I buy clothes there because ... I like the styles, and the prices are cheap. I discovered this simply by walking past them in the store.

              The mind is a complex beast, but what we do know it's associative. For example when you hear a particular song, you might suddenly find yourself thinking about some special time they played that song. Those emotions "rub off" on the song itself and makes you feel happy just hearing the song. It's the same with ads, you're not going to like take commands from ads. What it will do is link these products to people that are cool, rich, famous, sexy or funny so those thoughts will rub off on the product. In a way, the mind is much better at remembering this than our conscious stream of thought - we'd be overwhelmed otherwise - and the marketers know to use it. You think you're looking at the product, but your mind is really pulling up these associations that say "cool people wear this" and believe it or not, it's what makes people pick one shirt over the other almost similar shirt in the other rack. If people realized they'd feel like a puppet on strings and very few want that, I think it's more likely you've been well marketed to than not marketed to.

    • Interesting. It seems to me celebrities still get all sorts of things for free, and it hasn't lowered the price the least bit for us "common folk". The internet does absolutely NOTHING to force companies to sell a product for the same price to everyone. If you think that you've either never gotten a deal, or you're living in a hole.
      • You are ignoring gray markets and black markets. You can try to bend the natural laws of economics as much as you want. Even if you control the entire state apparatus, as in the Soviet Union, the irresistible forces of the market eventually provide your undoing.

        Why do you think Free Software began in the first place?

      • The internet is great for comparing prices and finding the cheapest offers. I have used that myself on occasion to get CDs below 10 euros or some electronic spare parts for a fraction of the price the official channels demand. And that is only about getting the same stuff cheaper. Finding alternatives from another brand is also easier when you can get all the information you need on the net.

        Of course, the above covers only low priced stuff where most dealers won't bother with haggling because it would be to

    • Yes, it's a business method, but no, it's not a patent. At least, not yet, anyway.

      This one will undoubtedly get, ahem, "Bill-skied". Hopefully, we'll find out what SCOTUS has to say on the matter before it gets examined.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tom ( 822 )

      in an Internet era, where price information travels rapidly, prices converge towards fixed prices.

      Sorry, you're 10 years behind. That's the original theory, but capitalism has since evolved away from the silly "free market" concept.

      Or have you seen the price of Windos "converge" in any meaningful way? Have you missed the article a few stories down about price fixing in the LCD market? The many other examples of price manipulations?

      The thing about this patent is that "price information" itself is manipulated. Your price information is meaningless to me, because I can not get it. When the price informatio

      • Or have you seen the price of Windos "converge" in any meaningful way? Have you missed the article a few stories down about price fixing in the LCD market? The many other examples of price manipulations?

        Have you read about netbooks? Originally Microsoft did not even want to sell Windows XP anymore because they wanted to boost Windows Vista sales numbers. Asus releasing the Linux Eee PC netbook was enough for forcing Microsoft to not only continue selling Windows XP, but lowering the price enough [live.com] to be co

    • Besides, in some cases services like steam already have the same effect, but without the patent. I'd argue that your influence correlates to how much you watch these places for good deals. The more time you spend, the more likely you are to tell people about it. Thus, you have influence and lower prices, and it occurred naturally without a patent.

      Take a look at this series of events:

      -I see $5 game. (80% off)
      -I purchase $5 game.
      -I tell friends $5 game is good.
      -Friends either buy at $5 or buy at full price be

  • by ironicsky ( 569792 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:39PM (#30417468) Journal
    Hey, works for me... Microsoft gave me a free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit for hosting a Windows 7 party... I am influencial, I get free software!
  • by Sebilrazen ( 870600 ) <blahsebilrazen@blah.com> on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:39PM (#30417478)
    I'd swear that's what the merchandise bags they give out at movie premieres are. The celebrities get stuff free, wield their influence over those susceptible to influencing who rush out and buy it. $0->$x.
    • Reading is some more this seems awfully familiar to multi-level marketing [wikipedia.org]. Enjoy your brand new MS Herbalife overlords.
      • Nah, most MLM's involve convincing you become an "entrepreneur businessman" by selling you a tube of toothpaste for $27 dollars. Then, rather than face the fact you just got ripped off, you have to invite your family and friends to "sales meetings" where you can offload the toothpaste to them so that they can become "entrepreneur businessmen" also.

        Basically it means recruiting people for whom money is more important than their closest family and friends, and would happily fuck them over to recoup their loss

    • by Zadaz ( 950521 )

      This sounds like exactly what happens when I go out to eat:

      When I go out to eat at a new restaurant I get regular service and pay 100%.

      When I go to eat as a restaurant I'm a regular at I get good service and pay 90%.

      When I go to a restaurant with a friend who owns a well regarded restaurant I get amazing service and pay %50.

      When I got to a restaurant with the staff of a popular TV cooking show, the owners and chefs come out from the back and do gymnastics and we eat for free.

      Heck, this is already applied to

      • When I got to a restaurant with the staff of a popular TV cooking show, the owners and chefs come out from the back and do gymnastics and we eat for free.

        If the chefs come out, who cooks?

        Just kidding, your example is much more verbose than mine.

        • by Zadaz ( 950521 )

          (Yeah, but your is better copy edited than mine. I'm going to have to turn in my proofreader's badge for that one.)

  • Yet another attempt by MSFT to influence Linux users. By charging them triple for the same product.

    I can see this going over like a lead filled ballon. While costs for goods may rise and drive up prices, prices themselves have a way of going down with volume. Of course in a market (software) that doesn't produce physical products pricing is artificial anyways.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by quadelirus ( 694946 )
      This is not a challenge, just a clarification question: how exactly do linux users factor into this discussion? It seems to be about using information gleaned from social networks to adjust prices in order to maximize product adoption. Also, I wouldn't be so certain this wouldn't be popular. If everyone in your social group wants to be like person X and MS can determine this and give something to person X for free that will cost you and the rest of the group $10, I'm not sure so many people would abstain a
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by peragrin ( 659227 )

        simple linux users are the at the bottom of the social ladder. little influence means they have to pay higher.So MSFT has found a way to segregate and separate the general population into a class, pricing structure based who they know. If you can't see how this is bad then you need to open up a history book on class seperation through the ages and the methods used to keep a group of people down.

        Also when the iphone came out it wasn't just geeks buying them. the general masses found an easy to use phon

        • The phrase money talks and sh*t walks is true.

          Linux does not have a sales team and therefore is losing the server market.

          Management always buys what the marketing sales teams at proprietary software companies push and they become friends with the sales teams. What is interesting is in the severe recession we are in now is that this approach does not work well. If the budget is slashed to $0 for software upgrades it does not matter what the discount is. Linux actually wins hands down.

          All this shows is perhap

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Narnie ( 1349029 )

          simple linux users are the at the bottom of the social ladder. little influence means they have to pay higher.

          I'm not so sure about that. I'm a simple linux user, but as such, I'm constantly having to work on my wife's and parents' windows boxes because I happen to have the most pc know how. As I am their IT, they constantly hear me berate Windows and tell them I'd rather swap them over to Ubuntu or a Mac than just fix the problem again. If MSFT really implements this price gouging schemes, I'd be more insistent of them switching.

          The way I see it, I have influence over my family by getting them to switch away from

      • I'm wondering how many Linux users would actually *be* on a social network, seeing as even a simple thing like Flash is so hard for them to get working ?

        Or maybe MS is doing some fancy data-mining.

        1. Bought a computer ?
        2. Asked for a refund on the preinstalled copy of Windows ?
        3. No profile found on Facebook ?
        4. ???
        5. Linux User Profit !

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      but you have to really understand what's going on. A program like this is to measure "influence"... so they now have leverage to keep people from publicly switching as they will lose their "influence discount" and have to start over at "retail price" if they want to "come back to the fold". This is about Microsoft not losing share to other players by squeezing the share it's already got. At an enterprise level that could be tens of thousands of dollars if they saw you reducing Windows desktop licenses but w

  • take as a regular person (not a corporation) for me to be charged with some kind of "fill in the blank" conspiracy if I started keeping tabs on people like the corporations do.

    Are we actually gonna be citizens in the next 50 years or just law abiding consumrzens with laws that put us into jail of we don't spend our money fast enough on new shiny things.

  • Patentable? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bel Riose ( 1683532 )
    I can't believe, that some pricing strategy is patentable. Is this a joke (I'm a layman in such matters)?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 )

      I'd have thought it would be shot down with prior "art" simply because tiered pricing has been in existance since bakers gave away their goods to the emperor for free to bear the titel of "emperor's baker".

  • seems dangerous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@nosPAM.hackish.org> on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:42PM (#30417492)

    Approaches like this are pretty direct attacks on why free markets work. Almost all classical and neoclassical economic theory assume things like the existence of a supply/demand price curve, availability of pricing information, etc. If you have some nutty system where price curves aren't really defined beyond an individual level, prices aren't widely available, etc., all the usual pricing signals, resource allocation by the "invisible hand", etc., get a lot more muddled, and probably begin to break down.

    Of course, that's certainly a reason I can see Microsoft wanting it: finding ways to profit other than "make a good product and compete fairly on the open market" is their modus operandi.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by quadelirus ( 694946 )
      We already have this sort of thing on a macro scale. Gadget magazines are sent free gadgets and many of us make buying decisions based on those gadget magazines. This is just a finer grained version of the same old system.

      What scares me about this is that it would create the same kind of frenzied I-want-to-get-as-many-facebook-friends-as-possible-no-matter-if-I-know-them-or-not mentality except with profit motive behind it. The more friends you have, the more MS thinks you are an influential person, the
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Trepidity ( 597 )

        Yeah, I agree it already happens, but I think there can be a qualitative difference if it gets hugely pervasive. In the case of free gadgets being sent out, you can at least plausibly still identify a "normal market", where people buy things based on price signals and preferences. It might be distorted somewhat by the reviews the free-gadget-recipients produce, but that's not really in principle different from any other disinformation that distorts markets; just another variety of misleading advertising.


      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by stephanruby ( 542433 )

        Don't give them any idea. That's essentially what killed http://sixdegrees.com [sixdegrees.com]

        SixDegrees used to be a great social networking site until they got the idea that they should reward people having the most connections with free CD players/walkmans and free cheap trinkets (the type that credit cards give you when you sign up with them). As soon as they started doing that, I was really embarrassed that I had invited my former bosses, my college professors, and many of my friends, to it. I used to be really gung

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you have some nutty system where price curves aren't really defined beyond an individual level, prices aren't widely available, etc., all the usual pricing signals, resource allocation by the "invisible hand", etc., get a lot more muddled, and probably begin to break down.

      Companies already have all sorts of way to optimize price models besides looking at a supply demand curve so as to pick one point of intersect. Coupons and discounts allow you to charge more for wealthier individuals, who are less conscerned with spending their Sunday afternoons clipping newspapers. Charging less for over-the-weekend flights means you are effectively able to set higher prices for business trips. Those Pepsi-codes that give people prizes effectively makes Pepsi cheaper to the consumer bas

    • Re:seems dangerous (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tom ( 822 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:19PM (#30417826) Homepage Journal

      Approaches like this are pretty direct attacks on why free markets work.

      Yes, they are. Surprised to see a direct attack on the free market by a convicted monopolist? ;-)

      Nobody, and I'm serious on that, not the most convinced communist, not the most radical islamic fundamentalist, hates a free market as much as major corporations. Pretty much everything that determines a free market is an obstacle towards their ultimate goal: Unlimited, guaranteed profit.

      I'd have thought after the financial crises more people would've noticed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ISoldat53 ( 977164 )
      This is why reviews on Angie's list, CNET, Slashdot, Amazon and the like are getting more important. When you make a report on something like Angie's List you can influence many more people than your lowly ranking as an end-user would normally indicate.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      There's many simple cures for this one as a mass market thing - vanity for one. Everybody thinks they're above average important and a lot of customers will be insulted that they're not deemed important enough. A lot of people will feel ripped off for having to pay more than the next guy for "no reason" in their opinion, I remember amazon played with this a little while but quickly stopped. There's the easy possibility for arbitrage, if a "trendy" friend of mine doesn't want something but I do, I can setup

  • by Interoperable ( 1651953 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:44PM (#30417506)
    Let's all friend each other on Facebook...the entire /. community. We will all be considered exceptionally influential and will therefore be given free stuff.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Or we could make a website where we all chill and talk about the latest news! Yeah, and we could come up with a bunch of lame meems that spread through the internet, just to show how influential we really are! Sounds kick ass to me.
  • [0004]The described implementations relate to social marketing. One technique identifies potential buyers of a product where the potential buyers belong to a social network. The technique determines a price to offer the product to individual potential buyers that considers both influence of the individual potential buyer within the social network and overall revenue from sales of the product to the potential buyers.

    [0005]Another implementation identifies potential buyers of a product in a social network. The implementation arbitrarily selects a set of the potential buyers to offer the product at a relatively low price to influence the remaining potential buyers. The implementation also updates membership in the set by adding and removing individual potential buyers from the set until revenue from product sales to the social network is not increased by adding or removing an individual potential buyer from the set. The above listed examples are intended to provide a quick reference to aid the reader and are not intended to define the scope of the concepts described herein.

    The rock stars get their guitars for free (Paul McCartney once commented:"When you're poor you cant' afford them and when you're rich they give them to you.) is the same thing.

    Or how about paying celebrities to use your product.

    Now the randomly selecting people part. What's wrong with that? So they're trying to accelerate the product to the tipping point.

    This will hurt no one and this was just an "article" to have an excuse to bash Microsoft about something. *yawn*

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by quadelirus ( 694946 )
      "This will hurt no one and this was just an "article" to have an excuse to bash Microsoft about something. *yawn*"

      I mildly agree; forgetting the fact that it is MS however, it might be legitimate to ask how this can be patented when it is already the system that has been in place since the dawn of marketing. (Send free stuff to people who influence buying decisions; product giveaways; etc)
  • New Business Model (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:50PM (#30417568)

    1. Become influential or join together with a group of influential friends.

    2. Buy things very cheap.

    3. Sell them at a higher price.

    4. Profit

    In fact, you could set up a brokerage business where you find people that have cheapest access to things, offer to buy from them at a slightly higher price than they pay, and sell at a higher price to groups that would have to pay even more. Lots of profit opportunities here.

  • by Fractal Dice ( 696349 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:53PM (#30417580) Journal

    Influence mapping scares me deeply. It completely devalues the entire concept of friendship, turning every relationship into a marketing channel, every person into a spambot zombie hoping for a discount from sellers or a better performance appraisal at work.

    I would love to see the practice outlawed, but data mining is becoming so pervasive I don't know how you prove its even happening without catching differential pricing caught in the act.

  • This can't be legal, especially under any sane consumer protection laws. I really can't see them ever getting to try this, especially in the EU, where for anything Microsoft do, there's a team of lawyers waiting for the chance to fine them for it.

    On the other hand though, sometimes I like to think that Microsoft go around patenting bad ideas to protect them, not for their own use, but to stop someone really malignant from using them in the real world. How on earth does one determine influence anyway?

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:57PM (#30417622)

    If you receive a more preferable product for a good or service based on your social network status (or on your blog), you have to disclose that, according to the FTC [ftc.gov].

    You aren't allowed to get a better price based on your influence/following and fail to disclose it.

    This type of pricing scheme is dangerous, and might land company executivies in jail, for the attempt to defraud less-influential people with higher pricing.

    However, I expect this could backfire... some of the more influential people will certainly say what price they got.

    You can't control this type of information. There will be a backlash / disillusionment when other people learn that they are getting a different price.

    In fact, the "more influential person" may lose influence, when people discover that.

    E.g. Getting the better price can have long-term social costs in how other people in your social network view you.

    Good Advise vs. "Sell-out"

    • Don't even sweat the FTC - What do you think the IRS does about people not declaring anything over De Minimus items as income? An old rule of thumb has been that items of less than 50 $ are trivial benifits. However, one of the last IRS decisions on employee receipt of employer distributed goods held that the limit where an item was too trivial to report lay somewhere between providing coffee and doughnuts for breakfast (acceptable without bothering to keep records or report) and actually providing a full b

  • Perfect. (Score:3, Funny)

    by selven ( 1556643 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @05:58PM (#30417626)

    Now nobody else can do it. Can I have my $150 Photoshop now?

  • People will find ways to game this system, just like people gamed search engines with Google bombs.
    If you think blog spam is bad right now, just you wait.
  • Bing (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:01PM (#30417658) Homepage Journal

    And someone just said yesterday that the privacy policy of Bing is better than the one for Google.

    Looks like they have the next few revisions already in mind, with substantial changes.

    • Pff, they don't have to invade anybody's privacy to pull this stunt off. These days most people are willing to give out that kind of information for free.

  • Game theory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by giorgist ( 1208992 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:01PM (#30417660)
    So now MS is patenting Game theory.
    What netx, algebra ?
  • by BrianRoach ( 614397 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:03PM (#30417672)

    I used to run a motorcycle performance shop. You do this all the time. I would often cut deals on accessories / parts to customers I knew would show them off to their friends, talk on the internet, etc, etc. Those people (hopefully) then buy from you at your regular prices.

    When you do it for club racers, it's called "sponsorship" ... but it's really the same thing. If you have a fast racer, you help him out based on his "influence" (wins races, is well liked, etc). Regardless if your assistance makes him go faster or not, the perception is: "Fast / winning guy goes to Shop X, I should also go to Shop X". They have influence over their "social network", which is other racers.

    Seriously, I don't see how this is new or innovative.

  • Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MadUndergrad ( 950779 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:05PM (#30417702)

    This is the most evil plan related to software that I think I've ever heard. Their plan is basically to prey on the weak. Are they going to patent stealing candy from children next?

    • The idea is giving discounts or freebies to people who will tell others about your product. Right now they might just give it away for free to reviewers with a large audience. What they'd like to do is identify people they could sell the product to for half price or some other fraction while getting a similar effect. They don't want to give it to them for free if they could get them to pay something for it while still telling all their friends.

      The article title could've used some work IMO.
  • If only Microsoft spent half as much time on improving Windows as they spend on this "research".
  • Moderators, let's try that scheme here. Give this post 0, 5, 10, 20, or 25 points, based on the influence this author wields. I await your judgment.
  • Cool (Score:3, Funny)

    by FlyByPC ( 841016 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:07PM (#30417722) Homepage
    I, for one, welcome the new opportunity to game the system. I mean pricing scheme.
  • Just look at what they're proposing. Those who INFLUENCE other people in a way that makes a product more valuable.. are desirable customers. So we discount them or give the product to them for free because it increases the value of the product on the whole. Let's look at two examples that are present in all places one might wish to look:

    1. Advertising. Duh. Sports athletes, actors, models, and other such famous figures. We see them sporting things GIVEN to them by companies. Why? Because the tren
  • Yay! (Score:2, Funny)

    by arun84h ( 1454607 )
    Only 5000 more rep and I'll be exalted with the Microsoft faction! Discounts abound!
  • ... Screw the geeks, dweebs, nerds, and awkward kids and adults, give it away free to the popular people...

    Guess what, we are NOT the popular people out there.
    Do you really want to subsidize them?

    As to the celebrity thing, I don't much like it, they get paid lots of money, they can afford to buy their own freaking PS3, and the house to put it in, but that at least falls under advertising.
    However, making it a form of industry wide pricing scheme, that has to be illegal.
    (And if it isn't, it should be.)

    "I'm so
  • by dfn5 ( 524972 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:19PM (#30417820) Journal

    an example of a pricing model that charges different people $0, $5, $10, $20, or $25 for the identical item based on the influence the purchaser wields.

    This is just an observation, but when I hear things like "We got 80% off list price for technology X from our vendor" it makes me wonder what the real value of the product is. After reading this maybe the value of the product is really irrelevant and in our world of commerce it depends on how influential you are. If that is the case how can they patent how the world currently works?

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:20PM (#30417830)

    FTFP: "The technique determines a price to offer the product to individual potential buyers that considers both influence of the individual potential buyer..."

    Microsoft wants to pay its customers to astroturf for it. Where I come from that's called a kickback, bribe, or politics as usual.

  • free stuff ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by naeone ( 1430095 )
    for free stuff i use p2p, best marketing tool ever, apart from the sales graph
  • by jejones ( 115979 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:28PM (#30417904) Journal

    ...or bribing the most influential?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:28PM (#30417906)

    Let's be blunt here, if one side ceases to play fair, I see no reason in not following.

    So what's the requirement to be seen as "influential"? Having a shitload of friends on facebook? Great. Let's start a group dedicated to the sole purpose of having friends. People you don't know or don't care about, as long as you have a lot of friends you get crap cheaper? Works for me.

  • Famous people and/or well-connected people have been getting "gifts" from companies for ages. Some of the very first wheels were probably given to the chief with the big spear, while the guy in the cave next door had to give saber-tooth cat pelts in exchange.

  • Prior art (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @06:51PM (#30418052) Homepage Journal
    A pretty close one: having the option to disable slashdot ads based on user karma.
  • Consider the following: You've been tasked with junk-kicking the man business of a certain number of individuals. The parameters of your task are only concerned with the number of people junk-kicked; you decide which people's man business gets junk-kicked to meet your assigned quota. Are you going to junk-kick Vladamir Putin or Osama Bin Laden? How about Kim Jong-il? Tom Cruise? I would think not. That some of the aforementioned people might deserve a junk-kick in their man business matters not. They all h
  • Has the world gotten so twisted that we cannot create a place for kids to hang out online without a bunch of assholes trying to put them under a magnifying glass to sell them something? Why do people expect teenagers to be anything less than jaded when the whole of humanity does nothing but pander to them like objects and crowds them into little spaces.


  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @07:24PM (#30418272)
    One bad review posted to a web forum can have a huge effect. When multiplied by 1000, I would expect the consensus view would be that few people would buy a product - if they saw that many bad reviews or negative votes or a given product. These guys had better be very careful about who they decide is not influential, they could just find that there's a difference between how motivated individuals are to spread good news about a product and the lengths others will go to if they feel they've been hard done by.
  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @08:21PM (#30418574)

    Outrage prompts Amazon to Change Price-testing Policy [computerworld.com]: "Last week, Computerworld first reported that Amazon was conducting various price tests in its DVD store that could result in one consumer paying as much as $15 more for the same item as another consumer."

  • by postmortem ( 906676 ) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @09:02PM (#30418756) Journal

    With Windows 7 release.

    'Influential' people (loud online and offline how Vista sucked) and enthusiasts (basically same as first group) were given discounted versions of Windows 7 (win 7 parties, pre-release discounts, school discounts, etc.)

    And they all took the bait, told the world how Win 7 is great... and guess what? You can't buy discounted version, you have to shell out $120 for cheapest upgrade. The student version offer is about to end as well, and family upgrade option 3-for-150 has been discontinued.

    Sadly, it works, now everybody wants or considers Windows 7.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.