It helps to keep a certain level of scepticism when dealing with survey stories. Although the survey companies like to maintain a respectable air of objectivity, it is vanishing rare to find one that reports anything contrary to the marketing message of their sponsor. We may have found just that, though, with IDC's claim that Vista will create 50,000 jobs across Europe on the back of what looks like worryingly expensive investments.
One quote says it all: "If you add up all the spending on hardware and software that runs on Microsoft operating systems, as well as all the services around installing and maintaining Microsoft applications and solutions, you quickly come up with a number much bigger than Microsoft's revenues."
It takes a special kind of chutzpah to spin that as good news — even more so to go to the bother of commissioning a survey and then publicise the findings. IT's major justification is that it reduces costs and improves efficiency, with each succeeding generation being easier to install and maintain. Doing more with less is the normal mantra: this is effectively being ceded to the open source alternatives, which can be much more easily configured to make effective use of existing hardware and is no harder to maintain.
Of course, there's a lot to be said for job-creation schemes. For all the skill European governments have acquired at managing the figures, there's a significant hard core of unemployment across the Union. Perhaps Microsoft wants to help chip away at that problem, even though such an approach will seem suspiciously socialist to the more fervent supporters of the free market.
Open source as the promoter of business efficiency and Microsoft as a tool of state policy? That's a big switch from the days when Microsoft practically summoned the ghost of Joseph McCarthy to paint open source and its supporters as neo-communists.
There is another way to look at this report, as a rather clumsy attempt to ingratiate the company with an intransigent European regulator that steadfastly refuses to back down on findings of monopolistic misdemeanours. That may be unduly sceptical, but not as sceptical as imagining that the ploy might work. Better instead to congratulate Microsoft for becoming such a staunch supporter of European socialism — long and loud enough for the applause to be heard in Washington. Our survey says they love that sort of thing over there — and a good job too.