New Microsoft-commissioned studies are busting out all over

Just because Microsoft's "Get the Facts" site has been replaced with a supposedly less vitriolic "/Compare" one doesn't mean that Microsoft-commissioned studies are a thing of the past. In fact, on August 27, Microsoft released two brand-new studies -- one on SharePoint and one on OOXML -- both ordered and paid for by the company.

Just because Microsoft's "Get the Facts" site has been replaced with a supposedly less vitriolic "/Compare" one doesn't mean that Microsoft-commissioned studies are a thing of the past.

In fact, on August 27, Microsoft released two brand-new studies, both ordered and paid for by the company.

One is a study that pits SharePoint Server vs. open-source collaboration/portal alternatives. That one was based on information from CMP's Institute for Partner Education and Development (IPED), plus "a series of in-depth business-focused interviews with top management from solution providers across North America and Europe."

The result: SharePoint solutions are more profitable for partners than are open-source alternatives, according to the data.

"IPED research reports that Microsoft collaboration-solution partners see larger opportunities, faster growth, and up to 25 percent greater profit than those who sell open-source products. One significant driver: pre-integration means that Microsoft SharePoint-based solutions cost less than using separate, open-source alternatives. Capitalize on this rich business opportunity," according to Microsoft's synopsis.

The IPED study found enterprise customers use consultants 80 percent of the time to create open-source-based collaboration sites and 85 percent to 90 percent to create SharePoint based ones.

Microsoft SharePoint engagements to appeal to larger companies, according to IPED. Average project size is $5,000 to $15,000 for an open-source collaboration engagement, compared to $45,000 to $150,000 for SharePoint ones. Hourly billing rates: $90 per hour, on average, for open-source partners, compared to $150 per hour for SharePoint ones.

The study surprisingly found that net-income for open-source partners tends to be higher in these engagements. PED's explanation:

"Net income percentages for open source solution providers tend to be higher as a percentage of revenue, mostly because they aren’t paying direct licensing fees for the packaged software or intellectual property. Microsoft partners may have slightly lower net margin percentages, but tend to land bigger deals resulting in substantially higher total profit dollars."

The second Microsoft-commissioned study, also released Monday, was conducted by International Data Corp. on behalf of Microsoft. The topic: "Adoption of Document Standards."

IDC polled more than 200 government and private sector organizations. The primary finding: "Office Open XML (is) the format showing the most progressive adoption rates in the marketplace over the next 12 months." Other points of note from IDC:

* "The uptake of XML-based standards seems stronger in Europe than in the United States, but in both geographies, the dominant XML standard deployed is Office Open XML. Open Document Format (ODF) is receiving some attention in the public sector but is not as widely used as Office Open XML even here."

* "Organizations do not put emphasis on discussions about the 'openness'of standards. Instead, more practical aspects are rated highly: Cost is very important as is the ability to have an easy transition of existing documents to a new standard. This is particularly true for large organizations and organizations in the public sector."

(Wow. If this finding is true, the Softies are sure wasting a lot of time, energy and money in an attempt to gain standardization for OOXML, so they can claim to have support for an "open standard.")

* "The same pragmatic attitude is found in responses to the question about whether organizations aim for a single document standard or multiple document standards. IT managers favor managing just one standard, but line-of-business (LOB) managers generally see the need for multiple standards. Therefore, when LOB managers are looking at an XML standard such as Office Open XML, they see it as one of several standards deployed in the organization."

* "In contrast to our initial thinking, organizations do not see major barriers to implementing document standards. Overall, the decision to move to a document standard is seen as of average complexity by most organizations and the cost factor is seen as a barrier for just a minority of organizations."

The timing of the release of IDC study is perfect, as Microsoft is in the midst fighting for OOXML standardization all over the world. A number of Microsoft bloggers are providing constant updates on standardization vote tallies (and Microsoft's interpretation of them).

Bottom line: Don't let the interoperability rhetoric coming out of Redmond fool you. Microsoft's battle against open-source and "open standards" backers is not over. Nor is Microsoft's policy of commissioning studies to convince users of the superiority of Microsoft's solutions.