As the vote on OOXML approaches, Microsoft takes the curtains off some more controversial weapons. Behind everyone’s backs, Microsoft has been paying and conducting so-called ‘independent’ studies, commissioned (i.e. bought) by Microsoft itself. The other weapon Microsoft uses right now is cunning deception. More about this in the next post.
A Little History First
This technique has roots in Microsoft’s past. Watch this antitrust exhibit
[PDF]. To quote a favourite comment which one of our readers, gpl1, has brought to our attention:
“There’s an interesting article in the April 2007 issue of Harper’s magazine about panels, audits, and experts. It is called CTRL-ALT-DECEIT and is from evidence in Comes v. Microsoft, a class action suit in Iowa. Here’s a paragraph from a document admitted into evidence, called “Generalized Evangelism Timeline,” about guerrilla or evangelical marketing:
Working behind the scenes to orchestrate “independent” praise of our technology is a key evangelism function. “Independent” analysts’ reports should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). “Independent consultants should write articles, give conference presentations, moderate stacked panels on our behalf, and set themselves up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour. “Independent” academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and granted research money).
They advise cultivating “experts” early and recommending that they not publish anything pro-Microsoft, so that they can be viewed as “independent” later on, when they’re needed. This type of evangelical or guerilla marketing is apparently quite common in the high-tech fields, and seems to be used liberally by open source developers.
The document admitted into evidence also says, “The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator,” and explains how to find “pliable” moderators–those who will sell out.
It is all a big money game. Most activists in any field know of countless “hearings,” in which hundreds of citizens would testify before a panel, only to be ignored in favor of two or three industry “experts.” When a panel is chosen, the outcome seems to be a foregone conclusion. As with elections, they don’t leave anything to chance.” (a post from a Mark E. Smith about exhibit PX03096 “Evangelism is War” from Comes v. Microsoft).
Can you see the comment on stacking of panels and using bogus studies? This is definitely a ‘smoking gun’ antitrust exhibits. The other day at Groklaw, grouch, who maintains a mirror, was able to confirm for me, based on his
wget log, that this document is indeed authentic. It was used in Iowa against Microsoft last year.
Brian Jones Has Bought a New Gun
Two popular Microsoft blogs have just reported that Microsoft unleashed some serious anti-ODF and pro-OOXML “propaganda” (that’s their own word). Here is Mary Jo Foley’s take:
Bottom line: Don’t let the interoperability rhetoric coming out of Redmond fool you. Microsoft’s battle against open-source and “open standards” backers is not over. Nor is Microsoft’s policy of commissioning studies to convince users of the superiority of Microsoft’s solutions.
Today, Microsoft made available an IDC study about so-called open desktop file formats. It’s yet another Microsoft propaganda effort, as a crucial format standards vote approaches.
But Wait! Who is IDC?
IDC has a long history of being loyal to Microsoft. Simply put, IDC analysts do business with the monopoly. They don’t conduct studies as much as they sell studies. That’s just what they do for a living. They prove or defend a prescribed hypthesis no matter what. At the end they deliver some required figures, which can be massaged, spun, and delivered to journalists.
We’ll present some examples of IDC’s recent ‘path of destruction’.
A couple of months ago, IDC spread some classic FUD when Dell began stocking Linux PCs (whose sales figures have by far exceeded expectations). Here is what IDC had to say when Dell did not deliver Linux PCs to businesses.
Dell’s refusal to sell Ubuntu machines to small businesses makes sense, because those customers typically want PCs that let them get to work righ away. “It makes sense because the assumption is they want everything to work right out of the box,” Richard Shim, analyst for IDC, said. “With something like Ubuntu, it’s going to require some tinkering.”
IDC ended up with an egg right in the face. Dell delivers to SMBs now. The Linux business is going well and expands to other countries. Moreover, other OEMs have followed Dell’s examples since then.
Here is another nasty example:
IDC pronounces Linux unimportant to European economy [in Microsoft-commissioned study]
A recent IDC white paper on the economic impact of Microsoft’s super soaraway new Vista operating system seems to be lacking one crucial ingredient — other operating systems.
IDC’s deep entanglements with Microsoft have not escaped the attention of The Register, either (and Gartner, by the way, is even worse; much worse).
NY Times bans Microsoft analysts from Microsoft stories
Part of the problem stems from the reticence of companies such as IDC and Gartner to reveal their clients. That should make everyone nervous, but it doesn’t. So called objective technology publications keep publishing material bought by vendors without telling you this.
Linux is not the only IDC/Microsoft victim. Not so long ago, just before the fairly successful iPhone was unleashed upon the market, IDC muddied the water.
Has IDC got the wrong number for iPhone?
IDC has poured cold water on Apple’s iPhone just days after a previous survey led M:Metrics to talk up the new entry to the cellphone stakes. But are the new numbers sound?
The most obvious difference is in the sample size. M:Metrics had 11,060 respondents, IDC just 456. The sample space was also different, with M:Metrics apparently sampling from mobile phone subscribers, while IDC looked at online mobile phone shoppers.
Here is yet another ‘smoking gun’ Iowa court exhibit
[PDF] for you.
[Microsoft manager:] I don’t like the fact that the report show us losing on TCO on webservers. I don’t like the fact that the report show us losing on availability [windows was down more than linux]. And I don’t like the fact that the reports says nothing new is coming with windows .net server.
“I don’t like it to be public on the doc that we sponsored it because I don’t think the outcome is as favorable as we had hoped. I just don’t like competitors using it as ammo against us. It is easier if it doesn’t mention that we sponsored it.”
It seems apparent that IDC has a certain phobia. It knows where the money is and that’s where its integrity lies. IDC lies. It sidles with wealthy companies. Despite Windows Vista being a failure, IDC had nothing but praises to offer. It was ushering of its arrival, for cash.
While reviewers debate the merits of Windows Vista and analysts puzzle the over the pace of adoption, IDC and Microsoft are in little doubt over its impact for the economies of America’s 50 states.
To date, IDC has estimated Windows Vista will create 37,000 new jobs and generate $15.5bn in related products and services across just four US states.
Vista launch to add 100,000 Europe IT jobs: study
The study, conducted by research firm IDC and commissioned by Microsoft, said Windows Vista will be installed on over 30 million personal computers in Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and United Kingdom within the first year of shipment.
Wow. As we all know, 7 months later, Windows Vista probably ended up costing the economy a lot of money because people downgrade to XP “in droves”, according to South Africa’s press (sounds like the “Broken Windows” economic concept). Some have moved to Linux or to Apple Macs.
IDC was actually involved in studies about document formats in the past. It goes back to 2006.
This study is a fact-based analysis of the emerging open document standards, Open XML and ODF.
Moving on from discussions about IDC in isolation, here is another item to bear in mind.
It’s often difficult to figure out the motivation behind a particular study – until one finds out who has commissioned and paid for it. The so-called tech consulting companies would love it if the consumer believes that they have conducted an “independent” study. The worrying thing is that not many people blow their cover.
We have a game we play around the office here with Microsoft press releases. The game is called Find the words that make the headline true. It’s not always easy.
Our point: Microsoft has a long history of using press releases to promote their product momentum in shall we say interesting ways, using words like “fastest growing” (meaning, the number we started with was really really small) to redefining words such as “sold.” It’s not good marketing practice. Why? Because once consumers and press people figure out you are playing lawyer, they stop believing you and your brand. And that’s more likely to do you harm than good.
It now remains to be seen who will debunk that latest new ‘study’ from IDC. Not many days are left before the vote and many of those who can rebut are on vacation, We saw this last week. How convenient a timing.
The next post will discuss the latest stories about Microsoft deception, many of which have flowed in overnight. It’s never time for a holiday when the survival of a cash cow is in one’s hand.