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Peeling Away the FUD Wrapping on Linux/Windows "Studies"
Saturday, April 23 2005 @ 12:17 PM EDT

You just have to read this, The Truth About Linux and Windows". Business Week's Steve Hamm looks more carefully than most at Laura DiDio's latest piece of work and finds it wanting:

I've got a bone to pick with the never-ending stream of studies by tech research outfits comparing Linux to Windows. For starters, it seems like about half of them are paid for by one camp or another. Even when analysts aren't on the payroll, this is really complex stuff—and useful facts are hard come by. And, beyond complexity, some studies just make me scratch my head. For example: a recent one put out by the Yankee Group. I just don’t trust its conclusions.

So, finally, the mainstream press is noticing that something is wrong with the methodology of some of these studies, and Hamm carefully documents exactly why he questions the results. He is not a Linux "extremist".

I think now that she made her statement about Linux "extremists" to blunt criticism of her study, but it didn't work. People are not stupid, at least not the ones who aren't paid to be, and if they stop and think and look below a press release's claims, they can see what is what. The key seems to be to ask, as Hamm did, how the study was structured.

Joe Barr has done a fine job of looking below the surface of the InfoTech "study" on small and medium businesses and Linux. You know. The one that said "most" small and medium businesses aren't interested. Or as VNunet gloomily headlined it: "Linux fails in small business market." Already? It just got started, last I looked. Anyway, that isn't what I hear. Yet according to Info-Tech it not only isn't making inroads yet, it is losing momentum.

It turns out, once Barr started to peel away the wrapping, it isn't true anyway that most are not interested, unless you put a determined spin on the ball. Amazingly enough, Info-Tech supplied the spin, and we have Joe Barr to thank for making them retract their bogus numbers:

My first reading of the study caught a glaring contradiction between the words and the figures in the study. According to the original study text, "Of those not running Linux today: 48 percent are not interested..." According to my math, 48 percent of 73 percent is only 35 percent of the total, and that's a long way from "most."

Info-Tech thanked me for catching the error, and said the text would be corrected to remove the phrase "Of those not running Linux today." So the 48 percent that are not interested is now officially 48 percent of the total respondents. But that's still a minority view, not "most" as Info-Tech would have you believe.

So, caught in the error, they correct it in favor of dissing Linux. He goes on to explain how they did that, and it's truly astonishing. Meanwhile, they found that 27% of small and medium businesses they surveyed are already using Linux.

I don't know. That seems like a lot to me. Let's look at the numbers now. Putting on my math hat, if only 48% are not interested, I gather 52% are? Then how about this headline:

Most Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Are Interested in Switching to Linux

I know. I'm being silly. But their headline was just as silly. OK, here's another headline, just as accurate:

Nearly One-Third of All Small and Medium Sized Businesses Have Already Switched to Linux

Is Info-Tech really going to argue that it used to be more? I notice on their website, they have the vnunet article linked, but somehow they didn't add Joe Barr's article. I have come to the conclusion that sometimes folks do what they do just to get hits. I know. There are other possibilities.

Meanwhile, Barr asked OSDL and IDC to comment:

So is Linux really stalled in the mid-size market as Koelsch asserts? Not according to others we asked. Here's what Bill Weinberg, open source architecture specialist for OSDL had to say:

We don't see any evidence that Linux usage is stalling in companies that have less than $1 billion in revenues. The IDC data released in December takes into account small, medium and large organizations and reflects the clear and pervasive trend towards Linux with worldwide revenues for desktops, servers and packaged software running on Linux forecast to grow to $35.7 billion by 2008, a compound annual growth rate of 25.9 percent.

Dan Kusnetzky had this to say:

IDC is observing an expected evolution in the market for Linux operating environment software. More and more of the time, organizations are purchasing Linux pre-installed on systems rather than acquiring the software and pre-purposing an older system to support a Linux-based function. This trend tends to produce the following changes in the market -- 1) fewer copies of Linux are purchased, 2) increasingly the enterprise version (containing maintenance and support services) rather than plain distribution is selected, 3) the revenues produced by these copies of Linux are growing and 3) fewer but larger systems are put into use to run Linux-based functions.

I thought it would be worthwhile to contact Novell and just ask them if they find interest in Linux in small and medium businesses, and here is the statement from Bruce Lowry on behalf of the company:

"We see significant interest in Linux among small and medium sized businesses, as well as greater flexibility and reduced risk of vendor lockin. This is an important segment of the market for Novell, and, together with our extensive channel partners, we are actively promotion Linux in this space."

The Info-Tech study found that large enterprise is going increasingly to Linux. Do they really believe this will not impact eventually on everything else? Does Microsoft think the whole world is stupid? We're not. Neither is Microsoft. They just announced that they will provide support for Linux on their Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1, and let's let Ms. DiDio have the last word as to why they are making this move -- because customers demand it. Connect the dots, folks, next time you read another "study":

Although Microsoft could conceivably add support to other products, that does not mean it is now fond of the system, said Yankee Group Laura DiDio.

"They're fighting Linux on every front, and aggressively," she said. "That's why there's the focus in Asia, where Linux adoption is growing."

The company also has stepped up a marketing campaign that compares Windows favorably to areas where Linux is thought to be dominant, such as cost effectiveness andsecurity . But it also recognizes that some of its customers use Linux, and so it has to address that, DiDio noted.

"They're not going to turn their backs on customers just because they don't like Linux," she said.

Well, well. This may be higher math to an analyst, but I am able to deduce from Elizabeth Millard's article on the announcement that more and more businesses are switching to Linux. Duh.

Of course, I have to read between the lines, and shove analysts' obfuscations aside to arrive at that clear conclusion. And I take it Microsoft and I have reached the identical conclusion. Linux use is growing at such a pace, they can't ignore it any longer, and calling it a cancer didn't work out. GNU/Linux use just keeps on growing. Neither are the "studies" deflecting interest in switching to GNU/Linux or at least adding it to the mix. Hmm. Whatever could be next, I ponder?

Let me guess. Patents, perchance? And you know why that won't work either, Microsoft? Because customers will despise you for it. And our pocketbooks will follow our hearts. And then what will you do to get us back? Nobody admires a bully. Just a friendly tip. Business 101: The customer is king. That would be us.

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