Time for the real facts

Time for the real facts

Summary: Microsoft is banking on the power of peer reviews by parading a string of customers who dumped Linux for Windows but there's something amiss...

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Microsoft is banking on the power of peer reviews by parading a string of customers who dumped Linux for Windows but there's something amiss...

Steve Ballmer has fired a new salvo in the battle against Linux but when the actual facts are dissected, it's clear the Microsoft CEO might have committed the sin of omission.

An October memo issued by Ballmer continues Microsoft's 18-month global marketing campaign against alternative operating systems (especially Linux and Unix) aimed at convincing IT buyers that Windows is the better choice.

In his message, Ballmer cites glowing testimonials by a few customers espousing the wonders of Windows and how they saved thousands by averting the dark side. One such company is NYSE-listed Equifax, which has one of the largest online and offline direct marketing databases and is one of Microsoft's largest enterprise customers.

According to Ballmer, Equifax's direct marketing services unit spent several months conducting an internal analysis on the total cost of ownership between Windows and Linux. In the end, it was found that Windows would provide 14 percent in cost savings and reduce time to market by six months.

Unfortunately, Equifax's direct marketing department is haemorrhaging badly sales-wise. For the year ending September 2004, it registered a whopping decline of US$19.4 million in revenue compared with the previous year.

What Ballmer fails to mention is that Computer Builders is a certified Microsoft partner.
A business that was actually making money would have been a better case study, I reckon. Another company that received air time from Ballmer is Computer Builders Warehouse, a company that builds-to-order PCs.

The Microsoft executive said Computer Builders would save US$650,000 by migrating from Red Hat and Mandrakesoft-based Linux infrastructure to a pure Microsoft platform led by Windows Server 2003. These benefits, we're told, are dwarfed by the "millions of dollars" in new revenue the company expects from dropping Linux.

But what Ballmer fails to mention is that Computer Builders is a certified Microsoft partner. In the same month that Windows Server 2003 was launched [last April], Computer Builders' marketing director Sharon Shabander endorsed Microsoft's partner rewards program in a statement, saying, "We see tremendous opportunity for our company to profit from this [program]."

And in June 2004, Gene Thomas, then chief operating officer, said: "Computer Builders Warehouse has a 14-year history of supporting Microsoft products." He was announcing the company's Microsoft Platinum OEM Program membership status.

Since April last year, Computer Builders has announced the opening of a single, new store... in Puerto Rico.

If Windows played such an important role, as reiterated several times by both customers, is it fair to deduce that they could have fared better with Linux? Not in the real world since this would be too simplistic a conclusion but it is exactly what Ballmer has done in trying to prove his point.

Ballmer also backed his belief by quoting research -- some independent, some commissioned by Microsoft. In some instances, he regurgitates past justifications on Windows' superior security, giving special mention to a Forrester study which suggests Windows is more secure than Linux.

Linux software vendors Novell, Red Hat, and Mandrakesoft have cried foul, claiming the Forrester report was flawed.

Ballmer was also accused of cherry-picking sections of the study to further his cause but this is the business world and such conduct is common practise. Vendors will only portray the positive... the onus lies with customers to separate the wheat from the shaft.

This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
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Topics: Open Source, Linux, Microsoft, Windows

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  • Go get 'em, Fran. I'm a big fan of Microsoft, but it's always good to see marketing fluff pieces pulled apart.
    anonymous