*editorial note: the events described below took place in 2004
So I sat with about 150 other "technical decision makers" in a very
plush hotel in Holborn while representatives from Microsoft tried their
best to convince me that I should not be considering moving to Linux.
To run the discussion Microsoft had employed a fake-tan horror who had
clearly escaped from daytime TV. He was by turns chummy and
condescending. However being a reasonable man I will not hold Microsoft
responsible for his failings.
First up was Phillip Dawson who leads Linux research for
analysts Meta Group. He quoted heavily from a Meta analysis which shows
that Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for linux and windows is comparable.
This study has been widely reported in IT press but I can't for the
life of me find a link to the original. He made some interesting points
about where the datacentre is going to be in a few years. His basic
thrust was that everyone is moving from proprietary Unix with its
expensive platforms to Windows or Linux on x86 platforms and that it
this hardware move, rather than linux versus windows, that will drive
all the cost savings. Dawson believes that in a few years the only
place we will see proprietary Unix is in very large enterprise
After a promising start, Dawson then got into the territory of
why Windows makes more sense for enterprises than Linux. He introduced
what was to become a running theme for seminar, Linux is not free. It
turns out that the TCO statements made earlier were based on the
licensing costs of SuSE professional and Red Hat Enterprise versus
Windows. They had refused to consider that people might run a business
on something that they could download free from the Internet. Later in
the Q and A session Dawson got quite aggravated when people pointed out
to him that many Linux-based businesses run quite happily on free linux
(this was shouted by the scruffy-looking Debian hackers in the back). I
can only assume that businesses that are brave enough to save thousands
of pounds per unit by moving away from expensive hardware platforms are
meant not to care that they can save another couple of hundred pounds
on Microsoft licence fees. Later in the presentation he said "Don't
compare to the free downloads. They are not free". Precisely what he
meant by this escapes me.
One area the Meta study didn't look at was Linux on the
desktop. Phil claimed that linux was not ready for the desktop because
it lacked administrative tools. He was carrying on in a similar vein
when he said "Management tools on Linux are nearly as good as a DOS
Nick Barley, business and Marketing Director for Microsoft UK took to
the stage to baffle us with market-speak. There was lots of talk about
strategy and leveraging which I didn't follow. He talked a bit about
Microsoft's shared-source program and tried his hardest to make it
sound like open-source, mainly by refusing to say Open-source and
talking about shared-source instead. Continuing in Phillip Dawson's
footsteps he repeated the mantra "Linux is not free" several times.
Although he was at his best when talking about business models amongst
Linux distributors claiming that "Linux is moving to the same model
that Microsoft has been using".
My absolute favourite part of the talk was when Barley started to extol
the virtues of Windows because everything in it was made by one
manufacturer. A fair point which would have been well taken had he not
gone on to draw an idiotic analogy. He asked us to imagine an aeroplane
where different components were made by different companies. Apparently
he's never heard of Airbus.
Next up was Nick McGrath head of platform strategy for
Microsoft UK. The main bulk of his talk was taken up by a demonstration
of a document sharing system based on Microsoft Sharepoint. Very boring
for those of us running heterogeneous systems that Sharepoint will not
run on. McGrath was much more technically clued up than Barley, and
seemed to be aware that the audience was not entirely on his side. He
made mention of the Forrester report
that claimed more vulnerabilities in Linux than Windows. I saw this
thoroughly debunked by RedHat's Marc Cox when he was speaking as part
of RedHat's World Tour so I will not go into further detail.
After a break for coffee Microsoft rolled out some satisfied
customers for us starting with Basil Shall of Grosvenor Group. For
those of you not familiar with Grosvenor they are a financial group who
use their massive London property holdings to make more money in the
markets. The most interesting thing that Basil said was that he had had
to write a letter to the head of Microsoft UK before he got decent
service. Things got progressively less interesting as the morning wore
on. Paul Hartigan of PharmiWeb told us how great .Net is. Anthony
Leaper of Seibel told us how great siebel is and how it runs just fine
on windows. Colin Bradford of Computacenter didn't really tell us
anything about Microsoft but did do an effective job of plugging
Computacenter's new testing facility where you can get suppliers to
show you real working systems of their latest and greatest
The final part of the show was a Q and A session with the two
Nicks, Philip Dawson and Colin Bradford chaired by the aforemention
daytime TV horror-show. Eddie Bleasdale of Netproject
asked the most insightful question. He talked about a customer of his
who had lost data because it was in old Microsoft file formats that
couldn't be read by current Microsoft products. This was slickly dealt
with by McGrath who suggested that he should get the Microsoft people
to talk to him after the show. Barley added that all the current
Microsoft Office file formats including their XML schema are published
openly. I'm not entirely convinced of that but I don't know enough
about XML to make any definitive statements.
The overall tone of this event makes it fairly clear as to Microsoft's anti-Linux strategy.
- Claim that linux isn't free.
- Pretend that Shared source is the same as Open Source
- Make a big deal about the migration costs of moving to Linux
- Use the forrester report to claim that Linux is insecure
- Belittle the quality of the toolset available on Linux
I’d be truly fascinated to discover why the free downloads “are not free”… If we leave out the cost of a monthly subscription (or other payment scheme) to an internet connection- which is presumably a given for most companies nowadays, (or at least those who actually employ IT)- and the tiny cost of a CD-R (and the cost of hardware to run it all on- but unless something amazing happened recently, Windows needs that too). The download itself is still free, plus those little expense(s).
It would have been to nice to have had a laptop with a wi-fi high speed connection to the internet during the depressing display of ignorance and superiority complexes. During the meeting, a fellow could download *damn small linux* or *debian* or *knoppix* *opensuse* and burn it onto a disc, boot it up, and optionally install it.
And then go up and show your new webserver is up and running, secure, safe, with all of the necessary admin tools, complete with a fully functional and beautiful-looking KDE desktop, loaded with all the office products anyone could want. All free, All open source, All you need.
I run a small business (15 employee’s) on a Linux server and it didn’t cost me a dime. Used an old PII computer and loaded SME Server and was up and running in less than an hour.
MS can kiss my ass.
I’m not going to comment about how ridiculous this sounds. There are all sorts of ways a crazy Linux user like me could make fun of MicroSoft with all the great ammo they just provided. It just sounds to me that MicroSoft is quite aware of the deployability of Linux and what that potentially means.
Thanks for the laugh and good luck with your next Linux purchase.
Is this the same as Halloween X, i run Ubuntu Linux.
This is funny. all the claims are lame:
1: if Linux isn’t a free download then what is.
2: shared source is a lot like the sun java distributer agreements.
come on these arguments are lame.
Well… i just want to mention ubuntu’s ShipIt. You get the CD mailed to you, entirely free (as far as I know). So that leaves us with truly $) cost (unless you cont the 10 seconds of internet time it takes to fill out the form…)
The problem is: These “seminars” do work on people like IT management, that has no technical experience (at least nothing current) and fears anything new (aka willing to take no risk, even if it costs a lot of money to keep the status quo.)
IT management feels the pressure to go with, or at least consider, alternatives to Windows such as Linux from the technical people working under them. They read about it a lot. They hear about it a lot. They get asked questions from their managers asking why we’re not looking into something that’s “free.” These seminars function to provide such IT managers with the confidence and some literature to leave things as-is, no matter how wasteful that plan is.
I realize that big Windows shops can’t just switch to Linux easily (Microsoft sees to that quite well.) They can make moves, though – but ask your normal semi-incompetent Windows admin about Linux and they’ll say it’s no good. They don’t want to learn something new, even though it’s more fun and rewarding for the technical staff, could save the company money and down time, etc..
Expect a lot more from Microsoft with campaigns just like this one. They have a deep, deep purse and they will use every penny to defend their monopoly. They can’t just buy Linux, so they’ll use other forms of attack. I expect to see future FUD from Microsoft being a lot more harsh in the times to come.
What in the world is happening here?!… You want me to believe that the HIV plagued MS softwares will come close to Linux. Very funny. If what ever you say is correct, then perhaps you would be kind enough to explain why I could see Linux during the launch of a MS product. Check out the video, Mr. Gates could do nothing but give a sheepish smile.
Managers should spend less time attending these things and more time setting up a lab and having a play around with Linux to see if it’s a feasible option.
I try to run everything I can on open source software – it’s free…no wait “according” to Microsoft it isn’t!!!
Unbelievable, are you taking the mick, do you have proof of this seminar, surely nobody could be so brainwashed.
There you go.
The real issue here is that MS know they own the desktop but are unable to provide any compelling reason or evidence why servers running in the backed should also have the Darks Side’s OS installed as well. And insult to injury there is currently no desktop CPU with enough power to make Vista zip and snap. Instead Vista looks like a real marketing and technical disaster and add insult to injury Linux does the exact opposite. It really can provide a lean and mean desktop alternative without al the unnecssary cludge.
i have just changed to ubuntu after using microsoft since it came out. Vista was the killer, i use an amd dual core with 2 gig of ram and have had to do 17 re-installs since last july. i rang microsoft and they wanted to charge me money to look at my computer to tell me why vista was such a piece of rubbish.
I refused and did not know where to go and a friend handed me ubuntu.
It runs perfect, no problems at all, i can use the media player, send emails and write my articles.
Sure i am at a loss with much of this linux operating system, but i figure that will come with use and time after all i had to learn windows at first.
Microsoft has become so expensive i could not recommend them to anyone, they have effectively priced them selves out of the market. it does not make sense to come into the market with a 2nd rate operating system and then charge the money they want. its a joke when the operating system costs more the the computer to run it.
Linux makes a great product but is not as mature as Novell or Microsoft. I’m not saying that Linux can’t be run ‘Free’ but just because short-term cost is low, doesn’t mean that the long term cost wont’ be more. Also the dev tools from MS are very robust, and integrate well with Active Directory, Ldap, etc. I think it’s wrong to say that Microsoft has all the answers or even the best product, but it’s even more wrong to say the Linux is the solution.
I’d say that even when MS comes out with a way better product aka SQL Server, the MS haters will say pretty much anything not to admit that fact.
Jason, You do know the novell makes a linux distro right?
You use SQL server as an example to say MS comes out with better products. Ever tried running a large (aka several hundred Gb) database on that PoS? O sure, all the nice menus make it easy to make you think you can fix it when issues arrise (and they will, make no mistake), but actually fixing the prob is a nightmare.
Now, compare this with 2 competing products.
One one side, oracle. Not free, but runs on linux and is a shitload more rock solid.
Mysql: Free, about as rock solid as Oracle.
To add to this, both of these can actually be optimised to your need. I would know, I am a DBA. With SQL server, if you need to optimise, you are basicaly dead in the water. No proper trace tool, no way of knowing where the performance bottle neck is, nothing.
If you are going to defend MS, at least know what you are talking about
I think what they may mean by “free linux isn’t free” is that a technically competent Linux admin often comes with a higher price tag than his or her equivalent Windows admin. Add to this the cost (even if just minor lost productivity) of retraining your entire user base and migrating your data and/or proprietary apps and you are in actuality looking at a significant chunk of money for a company-wide switch. However, a new company should have absolutely no reason not to start with a *nix based system and I think the long term gains from getting out from under the crippling licensing fees would be worth the switch even(maybe especially) in a firmly entrenched Windows environment. Just thought I’d post and have people consider that it is a big scary step, and the switch will not lead instantly to rainbows and world peace – or even to increased net profits.
Good point Rob – in a large organization, or one with proprietary software such as the broadcasting industry, switching isn’t ‘just that simple’, and retraining or hiring a good linux admin isn’t always easy. That being said, I run Ubuntu and DSL at home along with XP (no reason to go to Vista, no desire to), and myself and the other tech at work are slowly and methodically switching systems to linux. I don’t consider myself a competent linux admin in any way shape or form yet…but give me time and a few more systems switched, and perhaps a bit more formal study along the way and I’ll get there.
I’m not going to knock MS for seminars like this though – they run a business, and as much as I have a distaste for some of their practices or marketing ploys, this is the way they will need to fight back against linux and open source. If I was them, I suppose I would have a similar strategy, you can’t just roll over and die 🙂
All that being said, one thing does bother me – much ado is made quite often about the ‘support’ that you are backed by when you spend all that money on MS licenses, but has anyone else found how truly painful and often futile it is to call MS support of any type? Google is my friend, not the MS hotline. Ahh well, perhaps others have had better luck with their support, I can only speak to my experiences.
Correct me if I am wrong here, but when a desktop goes down with Linux its usually hardware related, so an expert in Linux isn’t required. With Windows an expert isn’t required either because its either hardware, or gets met with the infamous “we don’t know, so we will just reformat and reinstall Windows” solution. So either way, experts aren’t really needed at the desktop level.
So what we are really talking about are the network and systems people, right? Its been my experience that a system can be run with less people when its Linux based, provided you hire people that know how to use it. The true cost is always going to be lower with a Linux system, even if you don’t consider the up-front purchase costs.
If the business is HUGE, the cost savings are phenomenal, as the number of Linux personnel does not need to increase as fast as they would with an MS shop. I work in an MS shop, and its freaking stupid that every time we get to a place where Linux would fix all our problems, we just hire 3 or 4 more MS goobs. Now we have a massive staff and they all resist anything without an MS logo on it. They all have certs but can’t program to save their lives….we better hire some more lol.
Windows has its place…games. Like games? Get Windows.
Do Business? That isn’t a game so get Linux.
I have had a small business running for about ten years now.
I run a website that sells, of all things, printable paper scale model aircraft. It is a nano business really and is more about my love of the subject than the money it generates.
From its inception I used proprietary software for some task somewhere or other in my work-flow. Initial research was done on Microsoft OSes on a couple of machines from win 95 onwards. Website design was done in Frontpage. the eventual products were crafted with other closed source applications. I did regular backups.
I upgraded from win 95, to 98 and then to XP. At each stage the process was less than smooth. I was like the guy who lost data because the upgraded OS could not read my backup sets with it’s “improved” feature set. This is despite shelling out for DLT tapedrives to protect hundreds, if not thousands of hours of the creative process. I had the ridiculous situation of having to run legacy machines to create dozens of uncompressed data CDs and laboriously restoring files manually until I learned how to network the machines. Add to this annoyance that after every upgrade of Word from Version 2.0 I have had issues reading data created in earlier formats. Same in Excel. Same in Publisher.
I concluded that the system of perpetual upgrade of software and hardware and the cost to my business was the absolute definition of irrationality.
In 2007 ~I commenced a changeover to “Free and Open” software. Now my main OS for business is Ubuntu Linux 9.04 as a desktop, server and Network aware storage.
I am still in the process of converting my workflow to an entirely Free and OPen environment. I have achieved 80% of this. Document preparation, shopping cart, website design and accounts are now all FOSS. The final 20% will be achieved through learning some more of the FOSS available or getting my CAD software to work under Wine.
I have one dual boot machine. XP is only used for CAD. I expect that this will change.
The corporate market is something I barely qualify to stand in, but I own a business, I own PC’s and I am thoroughly disillusioned with Microsoft’s marketing and cynical manipulation of me. Not even what I’ve seen of the Windows 7 Release candidate will tempt me back. My business is small beer to Microsoft, Adobe and the like, but there are millions of users like me, who together are probably bigger than the corporate market. Proprietary software is dead – it just doesn’t know it yet.
These are the words of a company who is seeing the serious threat that Linux and open source software poses too the company. Unfortunately, scare tactics like these work on the general public.
Microsoft To Businessman: Linux is More Expensive Than Windows…
This fascinating article from the Internet Archives illustrates how hard Microsoft tried to convince a businessman that Linux is more expensive than Windows. It’s actually kind of creepy….
[…] Un esercizio a cui alcune aziende non sono nuove, visto che hanno già utilizzato la “complicità” di società compiacenti per la campagna FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) contro Linux “get the facts” (il report di uno degli incontri – del 2004 – si trova qui). […]