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Weather alert: new Microsoft FUD storm expected


In recent weeks, Microsoft seems to have gone out of its way to put Linux down, while boosting Linux. First, there was the bribetop scandal; then, the Wikipedia ‘correction’ affair. Now, the company is up to one of its oldest tricks: playing games with analyst reports.

This time around, Sunbelt Software is working with the Yankee Group, a research company with a poor reputation in Linux circles, to produce its “yearly major survey comparing Windows to Linux.” Here we go again.

What’s wrong with that? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. Sunbelt is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. In other words, they’re buddies with Microsoft. If anyone does say much bad about Windows, how many people do you think will see those results? I suspect they’ll end up going straight in the great bit-bucket in the sky.

Next, they’re only looking for people to survey who read the Sunbelt publication, WServerNews. This is a publication that claims to be “the world’s largest newsletter focused on system admin issues for Windows NT4/2000/2003.” Funny, I don’t see the word “Linux” in there. Do you?

What do you think? Do you think people who read a publication devoted to Windows servers are going to have anything nice to say about Linux? If you do, I have a wonderful old bridge, lightly-used, in Brooklyn, that I’ll be willing to sell you at a remarkably good price.

Now, if Microsoft was just doing this “research” for its own benefit I wouldn’t have any problem with that. After-all, over at, we do surveys, like our 2006 state of the Linux desktop. The difference is, we don’t pretend that the opinion of a group of largely Linux desktop users says a whole lot about the entire desktop universe.

The Yankee Group, however, proclaimed a couple of years ago that its independent study showed that Windows TCO (total cost of ownership) was better than Linux’s TCO. It was only later found out by Pamela Jones of Groklaw that Sunbelt was behind this “independent” study.

Anyone want to bet that when the press release goes out about this new survey’s results it won’t mention anything about it being done by a Microsoft partner with a group of self-selected Windows administrators? And, once it’s out, we can be certain that Microsoft will trumpet how much better Windows is than Linux on its Get the Facts website.

After all, as Mary Jo Foley points out in her All About Microsoft blog, recent court documents in the Iowa consumer antitrust case against Microsoft, Comes v. Microsoft Corp., show that as recently as 2002, Microsoft tried to force IDC analysts into tweaking their December 2002 study to put Microsoft in a better light. IDC wouldn’t go along.

You know, Microsoft, I have an idea. If Windows and Vista and all that are really better than Linux and the alternatives, why keep playing games with the facts? Why bribe bloggers? Why pay people to set the record straight? Why promote biased surveys?

Could it be that Microsoft, with its hundreds of millions of customers, with its billions of dollars of quarterly income, is running scared that people will start waking up one day to the fact that there are better and cheaper alternatives? Can you think of another reason? If so, I’d love to hear it.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Yankee Group responds!

Following the publication of this column, the Yankee Group sent us a rebuttal. In an effort to allow our readers to hear both sides of the story and form their own judgments, we have reproduced the response from Yankee Group research fellow Laura Didio here.

A version of this story was first published in Linux-Watch.

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