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'Independent' report used MS-sourced data to trash OSS

'Microsoft gave us this stuff, but we haven't checked it'

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netproject envisaged a gradual evolution towards server-based applications, and suggested that in many cases OSS desktops could be installed on existing hardware, whereas a switch from Win98 to XP clients would most certainly require new hardware. Its conclusion is: "Once all the differences are taken into account we believe that the high cost of the licence fees for the new Microsoft Products more than outweighs the additional costs involved in the migration to OSS. The running costs of both environments are comparable and so since the licence costs will be repeated sometime in the future whereas the OSS costs are a one time initial cost, OSS actually provides the most cost effective route."

The Microsoft case study, on the other hand, claims a 68 per cent migration cost advantage over open source, and finishes off with a presumably unintentional contradiction from Newham ICT head Richard Steel: "While using Open Source might provide some short-term cost benefits, the longer term benefits related to technology and thought leadership of standardizing on a Microsoft platform are significant. While not easily quantifiable, these benefits are nonetheless a vital component of our decision-making process. We are confident that a standard Microsoft desktop and server infrastructure will reap great dividends for the council and its constituency."

We don't know about you lot, but if our head of IT started going on about a benficial "thought leadership" that was "not easily quantified" we'd be deeply worried about his stability and our IT budget. But on the subject of pricing, the reference to "a solution reference programme" is actually repeated in the Microsoft case study. Given that the case study is intended to be part of the Microsoft Get the Facts effort to sell Windows and discourage open source, and will therefore be a darn sight easier to get hold of than the raw data, it may well be that Microsoft intends to be upfront about the use of soft subsidy of this kind.

We've already got various Windows logo programmes and PC companies getting marketing payments for recommending Windows, so it's not a huge leap to a similarly formalised subsidy system for selected customers. Kind of screws up The Facts though. Microsoft pays you money to say it's great, which improves your bottom line, so when you do the numbers you reckon it now looks pretty good value, so maybe you think it is great. Anyway, isn't it great to be paid for saying it's great? Or something.

But here's a more positive spin on this from the case study: "The appropriate licensing mechanisms, coupled with an active role for Newham in these mechanisms, demonstrated that Microsoft was willing to step up to the challenge of assisting Newham in reaching their transformation goals, by working with them as a partner, rather than purely a vendor... Other local authorities in the UK look to Newham for technology leadership. The council’s adoption of a current and more sophisticated desktop and server infrastructure will no doubt help to influence the technology decisions of its counterpart authorities."

There you go, all perfectly legit and not dodgy at all. Don't say price cuts, say partnership. Don't say backhanders from the marketing budget, say technology leader, say key influencer.

Microsoft, incidentally, has a long and inglorious history of reverse-process studies (i.e. starting with the conclusions then sourcing the data appropriate for arrival at it). There are many, many examples but we feel this blast from the past is particularly appropriate to current circumstances. Regrettably, the link to Linux Myths no longer works, but it was sort of release 1.0 of Get the Facts.

We'd like to thank Microsoft for its help in the research for this article, but try as we may we can think of no earthly reason to do so. We will thank Eddie Bleasdale of netproject, who kindly secured Richard Steel clearance for us to see the netproject study. Apparently Richard said we might as well have it "seeing Silicon have got it already." Well, cheers to you too, Richard... ®

Related stories

Newham and Microsoft sign 10-yr deal
MS, open source, The Facts and the fit-ups
Microsoft, Sun, IBM and the war for government desktops
Gates to meet Brown, OGC and NHS chiefs Sun, OSS in crosshairs?
Savage discounts from MS flush OSS desktop from London council
How to help MS, harm OSS by not buying Microsoft

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