Advertising watchdog reprimands Microsoft over 'facts'

Microsoft's campaign claiming that Linux was 10 times more expensive than its operating system has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority
Written by Jo Best, Contributor
Microsoft recently launched a 'Get the Facts' ad campaign telling consumers Linux isn't cheaper than Windows. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) thinks they should get the facts too -- but it's warned Microsoft to make sure its are straight first.

A print ad from Microsoft that bore the headline "Weighing the cost of Linux vs. Windows? Let's review the facts" offered a comparison between a Windows and a Linux machine which, according to Redmond, demonstrated that "Linux was found to be over 10 times more expensive than Windows Server… for Windows-comparable functions of file serving and Web serving. The results showed that IBM z900 mainframe running Linux is much less capable and vastly more expensive than Windows Server 2003 as a platform for server consolidation."

Microsoft claimed the study was as like-for-like as it could be between the machines -- a Linux image on IBM's z900 mainframe CPUs and a Windows Server 2003 image running on two 900MHz Xeon CPUs -- and wasn't hardware specific.

The ASA, however, thought the choice of hardware could have been more appropriate, saying in its adjudication: "The Authority understood... that the measurements for Linux were performed on an IBM zSeries, which was more expensive and did not perform as well as other IBM Series."

The ASA, however, thought consumers might not see it that way and the headline's Windows vs Linux stance might lead people into thinking running Microsoft's OS - not the "competing file serving set-ups" -- was cheaper than one based on Linux.

The result being, according to the ASA, that consumers could be misled. The Authority asked Microsoft to amend its ads and suggested in future the software behemoth might want to have a word with the Committee of Advertising Practices' Copy Advice Team.

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