MS-Gartner in tangle over Linux-knocking reports

Linux Myths page claims MS newsletter published by Gartner is Gartner report - now read on

From the look of events over the weekend Microsoft would appear to have appointed Stan Laurel as VP i/c propaganda. What else can you say when Microsoft's famous Linux Myths Web page references a stack of "Gartner" reports questioning Linux's viability, and then the reports turn out to have been written by er, Microsoft? Actually they're only maybe written by Microsoft, because although Gartner claims they are, Gartner also, er, claims they're not. Well, not exactly anyway. But we'll get back to that - the easiest way into this ludicrous morass is to start at Linux Myths and work backwards. At time of writing Linux Myths included a short section headed "Gartner Group Reports." Three were listed: Will Linux be viable competition for Windows desktops/; 1999 OS Forecast: the Linux Face-off; and Red Hat's Future: Boxed in. Briefly, the reports conclude that Linux isn't a serious competitor on the desktop, that it won't gain acceptance as a substitute for Unix and Windows in the near term, and that Red Hat's "future success is not a foregone conclusion." No, we don't know why they bothered with that last one either. But here, in any event, we have three reports written by an independent analyst outfit that question the viability of Linux. That's what you'd understand from how Microsoft presents them, anyway. But follow the URLs to Gartner, and you find they lead to http://www.gartnergroup.com/webletter/microsoft/article3/article3.html and so on. It's worth noting that only articles 3, 5 and 6 are referenced, and that what is being published on the Gartner site currently seems to be in some state of flux. There were five articles up there on Friday, according to Rick Moen, who's been beavering away at the matter, but some of them have been going MIA. Number 1 at time of writing was something dull about desktop upgrades with no mention of Linux, 2 had an "access expired" notice on it, as had 4, which doesn't appear to have been live when Moen complied his first list on Friday. But it would appear to have been called "TCO best practice" at some point in its short life. No matter - doesn't the form of the URL look suspicious to you? No? But if you check right down at the bottom of each article, it certainly does. There's a disclaimer. It's long, but worth reading a couple of times so you get the meaning: "Microsoft Web Letter is published by Microsoft. Additional editorial material supplied by Gartner Group Inc. © 1999. Editorial supplied by Microsoft is independent of GartnerGroup analysis and in no way should this information be construed as a GartnerGroup endorsement of Microsoft's products and services. Entire contents © 1999 by Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. GartnerGroup disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. GartnerGroup shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The reader assumes sole responsibility for the selection of these materials to achieve its intended results. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice." OK, so we've got a Microsoft publication here. On the Gartner site. Microsoft's Linux Myths page is presenting a Microsoft publication hosted on a Gartner site as an independent Gartner viewpoint. Gartner is saying that Microsoft supplied the editorial, and that it's "independent of" (note this doesn't necessarily mean "not") Gartner analysis. Gartner does admit to supplying "additional editorial material," but although it disclaims all liability for the content, it claims copyright for the lot anyway. It all looks incredibly murky, doesn't it? But an "explanation" offered to ComputerWorld Australia (this paper originally wrote up the reports as straight Gartner ones) complicates matters further. Gartner Australia VP of marketing John Barrow claimed to ComputerWorld that Gartner originally sold the research to Microsoft for use in the Microsoft Webletter hosted on Gartner's site. Despite this claim, Barrow is also quoted as claiming that the Webletter had reproduced Gartner's original research in its entirety, and that the research had not been funded by Microsoft. But didn't he just say it had been paid for by Microsoft? Different matter altogether, apparently. Gartner says that its reports were independent and objective, and that it stands by them. So shall we disentangle? We must of course believe Gartner when it says that Microsoft didn't fund the research. But in Gartner's line of work the research clearly gets paid for by companies who want to use it. Gartner's customer contracts, one surmises, will cater for situations where the customer wishes to use Gartner research in conjunction with its own presentations. Gartner however will want to keep hold of its own intellectual property (can't have these expensive reports getting all over the place for free) while protecting itself in the event of customers getting over-enthusiastic with the embroidery. We think that explains the disclaimer/copyright notice. But what about the hosting itself? With hindsight Gartner may now be thinking of this as an innovation too far. You'd expect Gartner reports to be published on the Gartner Web site, but research sold by Gartner to Microsoft, and presented (apparently) by Microsoft is a different matter. Wouldn't you expect that to appear on the Microsoft Web site? But then, if it did, and it wasn't an unadulterated Gartner report, people might think it had been sponsored by Microsoft. So Microsoft wouldn't like that, so maybe we'd best publish it on the Gartner site. But in a special Microsoft newsletter. Come to think of it, there seems to be some kind of Stan Laurel input in version 1.0 of Gartner's Web publishing plans as well. ® See also Rick Moen's analysis

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