Mary Jo Foley has an interesting post today about Microsoft paying IDC to research Linux TCO and tweak that research to Microsoft’s advantage. The “facts” came out in court documents filed for an Iowa antitrust case against Microsoft.
When the results didn’t come out in Microsoft’s favor, it voted to bury them:
In an e-mail dated Nov. 1, 2002, Kevin Johnson, now the head of Windows, wrote: “I don’t like it to be public on the doc that we sponsored it because I don’t think the outcome is as favorable as we had hoped. I just don’t like competitors using it as ammo against us. It is easier if it doesn’t mention that we sponsored it.”
Before we cry ‘Foul!’, however, let’s ask ourselves honestly a simple question, “Would we have done the same?” I think the answer is “Yes,” nine times out of 10. If Linux Vendor X commissioned a study and the study wasn’t favorable to Linux, I’m betting that X would either bury the report or certainly take their name off of it. This is part of competing: you present your best case and defer to your competition to present your worst case.
In some ways, though, as Mary Jo says, it just doesn’t matter. This is ancient (circa 2002 :-) history.
But the problem is that Microsoft continues to use the bought-and-paid-for research in its Get the Facts campaign. Maybe it feels the “facts,” however gathered, are, well, factual. Or maybe it feels that since it admitted to paying for the research, it’s for the buyer (reader of the facts) to beware, and not its job to delineate the “facts” lineage.
I don’t know. I do know that as a products company, Microsoft does a very good job. I don’t like its strategies fairly often (like this one), but I respect its products. I think Microsoft competes very well on the “facts” of its products’ strengths. Those really should be the primary facts it sells. Not this anti-Linux FUD.