One of the key advertisements at the heart of Microsoft Corp.’s UK “Get the Facts” campaign comparing Windows and Linux has been criticized by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as “misleading”.
The multi-million dollar Get the Facts advertising campaign was launched in January and was intended to provide the facts on Linux and Windows comparisons related to total cost of ownership, licensing and support costs, security, and performance, according to Microsoft.
The campaign was based on a number of white papers and studies from organizations such as VeriTest, Forrester, BearingPoint, Yankee Group, Giga, IDC and Meta Group. It is UK-based Microsoft Ltd’s advertising based on Meta’s report Windows Server 2003 Far Less Expensive to Operate Than Linux Mainframe that has got the company in trouble with the ASA.
The report compared the cost and relative performance of running a single Linux image on two IBM Corp z900 mainframe CPUs with a single Windows Server 2003 image running on two Intel Corp Xeon CPUs, with the related UK advertisement stating: Weighing the cost of Linux Vs Windows? Let’s review the facts… Linux was found to be over 10 times more expensive than Windows Server 2003 in a recent study.
The Authority upheld public complaints that the advertising was misleading as it implied the comparison was between Linux and Windows operating systems only, and not about the performance of different operating systems on different hardware. The ASA added that it understood that it would have been possible to compare the two operating systems on the same hardware.
Microsoft had argued that the benchmark study related to a network load performance test that was neither hardware nor operating system specific and that the study was audited by Meta, which had reported that it was a fair comparison.
The ASA concluded, however: Because the comparison included the hardware, as well as the operating system and therefore did not show that running a Linux operating system was ten times more expensive than running a Windows operating system, the Authority concluded that the advertisement was misleading.
A Microsoft UK spokesperson said that the company had withdrawn the advert as soon as it was notified of the complaint by the ASA and had been working with the ASA on its ruling, but maintained that the related Meta report was still valid.
The complaint they had was not about the validity of the facts, what is in question is the copy context, the spokesperson said. They have confirmed the validity of the report itself. Microsoft added that there have been no problems with any other adverts in its Get the Facts campaign. We still believe it’s important to compare different vendor products and we still believe we’ve provided factual information, the spokesperson added.