There are certain--albeit unestablished--rules about how and when a company can use an international tragedy (like, say, a Japanese earthquake/tsunami) for marketing purposes. First and foremost, said company must couple any promotion with an appropriate charity theme. Second, the business must be sure that the charity itself is emphasized more than the product being marketed. And third (and most important) the business in question needs to be sure it's not Microsoft--evil, evil Microsoft.
Case in point: Saturday when Microsoft posted the following Tweet:
By the end of it, Microsoft was apologizing and donating $100,000 to Japan regardless of the number of Retweets:
We apologize the tweet was negatively perceived. Intent was to provide an easy way for people to help Japan. We have donated $100K.less than a minute ago via CoTweetBing bing
But, as GeekWire points out, Microsoft is far from the only company to subtly couple a marketing push with a charity drive. Stephen Colbert did a much more shamelessly self-serving fund-raiser with the Gulf oil spill (actually, most all his fund-raisers are far more about him than his charities).
In fact, any company that at all publicizes its charity drives (basically every company that does charity) does so with some self-serving intentions, the trade-off being that some good PR benefits both to the company and the charity it's raising money for.
Then again, Microsoft-bashing is one of America's great pastimes (a favorite of my own on many an occasion), so it's no surprise that the company gets held to a different standard.