Windows War of Words

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-11-08 Print this article Print

Corporate IT users are getting caught in the middle of another spin war between Microsoft and the Linux and Unix communities, most recently Novell.

Corporate IT users are getting caught in the middle of another spin war between Microsoft Corp. and the Linux and Unix communities, most recently Novell Inc.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sent a memo late last month to customers and partners lauding the benefits and advantages of the Windows platform over Linux and Unix, raising the ire of open-source proponents charging that Ballmers data was biased.

Ballmer wrote that Microsoft staff around the world have been fielding customer questions about whether open source really provides a long-term cost advantage compared with Windows, and which platform offers the most security. Microsoft customers also want to know about intellectual property indemnification and the best migration alternative for moving from a Unix platform, Ballmer wrote.

To read about companies that have migrated from Linux back to Windows, click here. Ballmers e-mail cited case studies and research studies, many of which were sponsored by Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., and can be found on its Get the Facts Web site, a program started in January that aims to give customers information about the advantages of using Microsofts Windows operating system versus Linux.

Novell officials in Waltham, Mass., offered a rebuttal last week. John Hogan, Novells vice president of strategic marketing, accused Ballmer of using only statements, principally from commissioned studies, that reflected most positively on Microsoft.

"A broader look paints a much more objective picture, one more favorable to Linux," Hogan said.

Ballmer wrote that "research methodology, findings and conclusions were the sole domain of the analyst firms," but Hogan said Microsoft nevertheless generally specified the configurations of the tests.

Ballmer wrote that while Linux presents itself as a "free" operating system, a study by The Yankee Group of 1,000 IT administrators and executives stated that a major Linux deployment or switch from Windows to Linux would be three to four times more expensive and take three times as long to deploy as an upgrade from one version of Windows to a newer release.

To read more about the business case for adopting Linux over Microsofts Windows, click here. Novells Hogan said Ballmer selected only the parts of the report that support a Windows strategy and ignored statements such as "corporate customers report Linux provides businesses with excellent performance, reliability, ease of use and security." The report also stated that Linux is a "viable alternative" to Unix and Windows, Hogan said. The survey by The Yankee Group, of Boston, also found that Linuxs total cost of ownership and return on investment could be less than, comparable to or more expensive than those of Unix or Windows, depending on the circumstances, Hogan said.

George Weiss, an analyst at Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn., said there is no question about Linuxs becoming mature. At last months Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Fla., Weiss said that by 2006, Linux "will meet the performance requirements of 80 percent to 90 percent of single OLTP [online transaction processing] applications."

Next Page: Which System Is Safer?

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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