RealTime IT News

Microsoft Ordered to Pull Anti-Linux Ad

The British watchdog agency charged with monitoring fairness and accuracy in advertising has ordered Microsoft to pull print ads comparing the total cost of ownership of Linux and Windows.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this week charged that one of Microsoft's ads was misleading. After investigating three complaints, it ruled that a print ad running the headline "Weighing the cost of Linux vs. Windows? Let's review the facts" wasn't, in fact, so factual.

In the ad, Microsoft claims it found Linux to be more than 10 times more expensive than Windows Server 2003. But the ASA ruled that the tests Microsoft ran didn't support that figure.

Microsoft is working with the ASA to address the issue.

"Our customers continue to value information comparing various vendors' technology offerings," a Microsoft spokesperson told internetnews.com. "We believe it is important to continue to provide this kind of factual information."

According to the ASA, Microsoft explained that it intended the advertisement to compare competing file-serving set-ups that met the same needs and were intended for the same purposes.

The company based its claim on a benchmark study of the relative performance and cost of one Linux image running on IBM's z900 mainframe CPUs versus one Windows Server 2003 image running on two 900MHz Xeon CPUs. The study was certified as fair by research firm META Group. A spokesman at META Group was not immediately available for comment.

But, after being advised by IT experts, the ASA concluded that the ad, created by ad agency McCann Erickson, implied that the comparison was between Linux and Windows operating systems only. It would have made sense, therefore, to run the two operating systems on the same hardware. But Microsoft ran Linux on IBM's zSeries, which is more expensive and under-performs the rest of its line, while it chose the cheaper, faster Intel boxes for its own software.

"They've given us assurance that they'll amend the ad," an ASA spokesperson told internetnews.com. "It won't run again in its current format."

Microsoft is fighting to maintain its grip on the server operating system market. According to a recent Gartner report, Linux represented 9.5 percent of overall server OS revenue, while Windows held 34.4 percent. But Linux-based server revenue grew 54.6 percent in Q2 2004, while Microsoft's dipped from 35.1 percent the previous quarter.