Microsoft's practice of paying analysts to conduct studies showing Windows' superiority over Linux have never sat right with me. It looks like my hunch was right that Microsoft's "Get the Facts" campaign wasn't and isn't all it's cracked up to be.
According to an e-mail message, dated November 1, 2002, that has been entered as evidence in the Iowa consumer antitrust case against Microsoft, some Microsoft executives favored hiding the fact that Microsoft paid International Data Corp. (IDC) for one of the total-cost-of-ownership studies comparing Windows and Linux that the firm conducted at Microsoft's request. (It looks like fear of being outed triumphed, and Microsoft ultimately decided to admit its role in commissioning the IDC TCO and subsequent anti-Linux studies.)
Additionally, according to the e-mail trail, it looks like Microsoft attempted to pressure IDC analysts to tweak the December 2002 study to put Microsoft in a better light.
I haven't been paying close attention to the Iowa case -- mostly because it's focusing on "ancient" history. Many of the e-mail and videotape exhibits from the case -- dating back to the early 1990s -- revisit incidents and evidence surfaced during the Microsoft Department of Justice antitrust trial, which concluded in a settlement in 1994.
But Microsoft's "Get the Facts" campaign is still alive and kicking. Microsoft is using the findings of these studies in current ad campaigns. Microsoft is continuing to pay analysts to conduct studies that it uses in its sales pitches to IT customers.
If Microsoft really is sincere about wanting to support interoperability between Linux and Windows at its customers' behest, maybe it's time to stop touting "facts" that are for sale.
Out of curiosity, are there folks out there who have found the Get the Facts studies useful in their buying decisions?