Microsoft Dismisses British Objections to Anti-Linux Ad

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-08-25

Microsoft Dismisses British Objections to Anti-Linux Ad

Microsoft sources said Wednesday that a British regulatory agencys objections to an anti-Linux advertisement published as part of its controversial "Get the Facts" campaign are moot because the ad is no longer running.

The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decision issued Wednesday found that a Microsoft advertisement placed in a British specialist magazine claiming that open-source Linux was far more expensive to run than Windows was misleading. ASA called on Microsoft to amend the ad.

Tracey Pretorius, the manager for Microsoft UK, said the company had been working with the ASA to "understand and address their concerns about the advertisement in question.

"Our customers continue to value information comparing the various vendor technology offerings. We believe it is important to continue to provide this kind of factual information," she said.

A source close to Microsoft and familiar with the matter said Wednesday that Microsoft had worked with the ASA in advance and submitted all ads for general approval before they were run, as was its standard policy on advertising.

"The ad in question was cleared, in advance, by the ASA. Evidently theyre going back on that based on anonymous inquiries challenging the advertisement," the source said.

The source suggested that the issue is moot because "these advertisements arent even running now as they only ran from February to May of this year in the UK," the source said.

Click here to read the details about Microsofts advertising campaign to counter the expanding use of Linux.

Microsoft launched in January the "Get the Facts" campaign, which is designed to give customers information about the advantages of using its Windows operating system versus Linux, its open-source competitor.

That campaign is the latest attempt by the Redmond, Wash., software company to counter the success of Linux and is in line with the strategy embraced by the companys open-source and Linux strategist, Martin Taylor. Taylor has said his personal mission is to publicize studies that showed Microsoft software beating open-source alternatives on return on investment.

But many of the statements and "facts" have been challenged by the Linux and open-source community.

In fact, at the OReilly Open-Source Convention held in Portland last month Peter Shay, the executive vice president of the Advisory Council, a business technology advisory group, said the business case for adopting Linux over Microsofts Windows was an economic decision, but not one where the total cost of ownership was a fundamental issue.

In his talk, titled "Linux Versus Windows: Business Perspectives," Shay said one fundamental business issue at hand is that the essence of "open" is the avoidance of vendor lock-in. In the long term, he said, the users of proprietary systems are at their vendors mercy.

Next Page:Cost comparisons found missleading

Cost comparisons

In its Wednesday findings, the ASA said it was responding to complaints about a specific magazine advertisement titled "Weighing the cost of Linux vs Windows. Lets review the facts."

The ad included a graph that compared the dollar cost per megabit-per-second of one Linux image running on two z900 mainframe CPUs with one Windows Server 2003 image running on two 900MHz Intel Xeon CPUs.

The unnamed complainants challenged whether the comparison was misleading, because the operating systems were run on different hardware.

The text accompanying the graph said that "Linux was found to be over 10 times more expensive than Windows Server 2003 in a recent study audited by leading independent research analyst META Group, which measured costs of Linux running on IBMs z900 mainframe 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," the ASA said.

The ASA upheld the complaints, noting that because the advertisement stated that Linux was found to be over 10 times more expensive than Windows, this implied the comparison was between Linux and Windows operating systems only, and not about the performance of operating systems on different hardware.

"The Authority considered that readers would infer that the advertisement compared Linux and Windows operating systems only and that the advertisement implied running Linux operating systems were, in general, ten times more expensive than running a Windows operating system."

"Because the comparison included the hardware, as well as the operating system and therefore did not show that running a Linux operating system was ten times more expensive than running a Windows operating system," the Authority concluded that the advertisement was misleading. It advised the advertisers to amend the ad.

In late January Microsoft also launched a new multimillion dollar advertising program for its Windows Server System, which it said would put a more human face on the campaign and the product.

Asked at that time how this latest ad campaign played into the "Get the Facts" campaign, Valerie Olague, a Windows Server System director, said there was a correlation between the two "in the sense that were talking about server software."

"The Get the Facts campaign is focused on third-party evidence that compares Microsoft platforms to Linux. This new campaign is just looking at the customer and what they are able to do with our products," she said.

Microsoft has lost a number of high-profile customers to Linux, many of them governments and governmental agencies and departments. The governments of Britain, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, China, South Africa and Russia are also all exploring open source alternatives to Microsoft, while federal agencies in France and China are all already using or considering open source alternatives.

Last year the Munich City Council announced its intention to deploy the Linux open-source operating system and migrate its 14,000 desktop and notebook computers away from Windows products to Linux.

Munichs actions are being closely watched as a bellwether for the fortunes of Linux in the public sector, in Europe and elsewhere. Following the citys initial strategic decision to migrate to Linux, a year ago, Paris officials ordered an investigation into a switch to open source.

Meanwhile, the city of Bergen in Norway recently decided to consolidate its older Windows and Unix servers on Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8. Other recent wins for Linux include the French Ministry of Equipment, Allied Irish Banks.

But Microsoft has been fighting back and actively been lobbying governments around the world not to embrace open-source applications and Linux.

To that end, Microsoft last January announced a new global initiative to provide governments around the world with access to Windows source code under its Government Security Program, designed to "address the unique security requirements of governments and international organizations throughout the world."

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