In a brief riposte to Ballmer's detailed executive e-mail to clients entitled Customer Focus: Comparing Windows with Linux and Unix, Open Source Industry Australia director Con Zymaris said "although it is quite clear that Steve greatly underestimated the security, stability and cost of ownership benefits of Linux and open source software, it is beyond dispute that he considers Linux the only game in town".
"OSIA is flattered by recent acknowledgement of Linux as the strongest competitor to Microsoft's desktop monopoly, by none other than Microsoft themselves.
"[Linux is] a competitor which should therefore be considered and evaluated by any business or government presently using Microsoft's products".
Ballmer's e-mail, distributed on 28 October, said a team headed by general manager Martin Taylor had been working since a year ago to ascertain "how we could do a better job helping customers evaluate our products against alternatives such as Linux [and open source] and proprietary Unix".
Ballmer then extensively quoted research, both independent and paid for by Microsoft, which he said demonstrated that "Windows provides a lower total cost of ownership than Linux; the number of security vulnerabilities is lower on Windows and Windows' responsiveness on security is better than Linux; and Microsoft provides uncapped intellectual property indemnification of their products, while no such comprehensive offering is available for Linux or open source".
However, while Zymaris declined in his statement to tackle Microsoft's interpretations of the research findings, he said the software heavyweight's own immense marketing muscle and advertising budget was being used to increase the presence of Linux and open source in the media.
"Already, Microsoft are funding campaigns which draw attention to Linux in almost every major information technology and business publication around the world," he said. "This free attention is helping spur ever greater interest in Linux and open source software as an alternative to the status-quo".
"Microsoft have on many occasions claimed that Linux is not a major competitive threat to them," said Zymaris. "However, we don't see Microsoft spending hundreds of millions of dollars fighting Solaris, HP-UX, AIX or especially Mac OS X in the media. The only platform Microsoft spends such intense attention and budgets on, is Linux. And, as always, actions speak louder than words."