Microsoft seems to realize that many people take its sponsored studies with a grain of salt. So, why would the folks in Redmond -- or any other vendor, for that matter -- go to the trouble to finance a study that they know will be dismissed as biased?
Microsoft knows that it's unlikely that the majority of IT professionals will take the results at face value, once they learn that a study has been sponsored by the vendor. But, by releasing the study anyway, Microsoft has a chance at framing the discussion.
Microsoft's Ryan Gavin, a director of platform strategy, said what he hopes the studies do is give IT executives some data to help frame a discussion, even if they disregard the specific numbers contained within the materials.
"Customers are looking for ways to think through and evaluate criteria," Gavin said. "You don't have to believe what the numbers are."
So, they can't tell you what to think, but maybe they can guide how you think. You'll notice that the studies that come from Microsoft tend favor the software giant not only in the studies' results, which most people are rightly skeptical of, but also the topics. If you look at Microsoft's "Get the Facts" page, you'll see that Microsoft wants to encourage discussion about indemnification, ease of management, total cost of ownership and use by small and medium-sized businesses.
By releasing these studies, Microsoft tries to shift the discussion of Microsoft vs. Linux to topics more favorable to the Redmond behemoth. This is why you don't see Microsoft studies discussing interoperability with other products, custom solutions, vendor lock-in, licensing freedoms, and many other topics that are germane to choosing an operating system platform. These are discussions that are inherently unfavorable to Microsoft.
Much as in politics, the only way to win this kind of game is to take the lead. Being reactive, and countering Microsoft studies with efforts to set the record straight, is a holding action, at best. Linux supporters need to be leading the discussion rather than reacting to Microsoft's talking points.
So, what's the best way to counter Microsoft's agenda-setting efforts? What topics would you propose to put Microsoft on the defensive?