Microsoft, Stock Photography, Robert Scoble and Corbis

The Seattle Times: Business & Technology: Gates, Ballmer little bit richer; compensation low by corporate standards Andy Goetze runs the excellent blog Stock Photo Talk and is constantly coming up with some of the best links around on the digital photography business today. Among his links today he had a great gem burried in a Seattle Business Times article on Microsoft executive compensation. According to the article, Microsoft last year spent $700,000 buying stock photographs from Corbis. No word on how much they spent at Getty Images if any at all (Gate’s owns Corbis but reportedly was not involved in the decisions to buy the images).

While $700,000 really is a tiny drop in the bucket for a company like Microsoft and they probably have completely legitimate uses for stock photography everywhere they turn, I do think that they are leaving an interesting PR opportunity on the table here. Robert Scoble first suggested this idea back in July and I’m surprised nobody at Microsoft took him up on it. A photo contest for Vista is just such a no brainer. The PR value and blogging buzz would be huge and Microsoft would end up with much more creative images than they’d get from a stock house.

Specifically they should have five winners which would be the five default choices for your background desktop image and then take the top 500 images and include them in a built in Media Center slide show to ship with every Media Center PC. The top prize should be something like dinner up in Washington with a Microsoft exec along with $10,000 and a new Canon EOS5D camera (Canon would gladly donate it for the publicity and this is the hot camera coming out this Fall). The rest of the 500 would get $500 for a licence to include their photo by default in a pre built Media Center slide show that would ship with the product.

This contest would be marketing dollars well spent — build buzz, get better images, highlight the my pictures aspect of Media Center, etc. etc. , ,