Are Microsoft-funded studies worthless?

It takes years to bring an education contract through the bidding process, more time to install the gear, and by the time it's all done, the teachers trained, it's all obsolete. Think of it as Moore's Law in action.

GeoMedia Discover
Our own Mary Jo Foley expresses skepticism today over a Microsoft-funded study which says European schools prefer Windows to open source.

Skepticism is warranted. Cynicism is not.

A personal disclosure. Some years ago I worked for a market research outfit which was in turn employed by Microsoft.

The company has since gone out of business, and I don't think it would violate any old non-disclosure agreements to note that these studies had a variety of purposes. In one case, it was a marketing purpose.

And the most amazing thing happened. After I presented my report, showing that Microsoft was the neatest, most greatest, niftiest solution to the problem I had defined, a Microsoft executive said, "Wait a minute."

The executive said, "We can't really do that. We shouldn't claim that." The report was edited to reflect the reality.

This does not mean Microsoft (or its market research vendors) won't game their studies to find the Microsoft-ready answer.

In the case of this particular study, by Wipro Technologies, I doubt much gaming was necessary. If you're short on support staff, if you want teaching software (as opposed to standard software tools), the open source ecosystem does not yet go there.

Re-seller infrastructures take time, money and care to set up. I know of no open source re-sellers specializing in the K-12 market, but there are a ton selling Microsoft stuff (and some selling Apple gear). 

This is not an entirely bad thing, because it has been my experience, putting two kids through school, that 99 and 44/100ths percent of schools' spending on computing has been wasted, for over 20 years. (The title above, from GeoMedia, is a fine piece of software.)

It takes years to bring an education contract through the bidding process, more time to install the gear, and by the time it's all done, the teachers trained, it's all obsolete. Think of it as Moore's Law in action.

Right now, in my home, are hundreds of CDs, Windows software programs sold by educational vendors which won't work on any machine I own. It was all sold and installed in good faith, no one tried to rip off anyone.

It turns out what schools need are fast network connections, and rugged machines which can access Internet resources. It doesn't matter whether those machines run Windows or Linux. And it won't matter to those students which OS is used by the application, either. If it works with their browser, that's good enough.

The best educational software yet created is Google.

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