Microsoft targets Linux with new ad campaign

Microsoft has launched a new advertising campaign designed to extend its "fact based" assault on the Linux operating system.

The US-based campaign consists of a two-page advertisement, which was featured in six computer industry trade publications this week, that cites a 2002 IDC study that found that Windows 2000 costs organisations less to operate for a variety of server tasks including networking, security, and file and print serving. "Reams have been written about Windows and Linux," the ad reads, "Let's skip to the bottom line."

On the next page, the advertisement directs readers to a page on Microsoft's website which contains a number of case studies and analyst reports that tout the benefits of the Windows operating system.

The campaign is expected to run for six months, although Microsoft has not yet decided on an end date, according to a company spokeswoman

Though Microsoft declined to say what it was spending on advertising, the simple print advertisement is markedly different from the high budget Linux ads that rival company IBM launched in September of last year, which were created by New York ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and featured such celebrities as boxer Muhammad Ali and director Penny Marshall.

The difference is telling, says Bruce Perens, a Linux advocate and one of the founders of the Open Source Initiative. IBM's advertisement targets high level executives, while Microsoft appears to be targeting more technical users, Perens says.

"IBM understands that the people who really need the message are at the top," he says. "I think that the IBM ad says, 'Buy Linux and save your company.' The Microsoft ad says, 'Buy Microsoft and save your job.'"

Microsoft characterised the advertisement's focus on IT professionals as in line with the "fact based" campaign it has waged against Linux since summer of last year. That's when the company's general manager of platform strategy, Martin Taylor, vowed to reduce the level of emotion in Microsoft's criticism of Linux. "There were some emotional statements made before; we're now on a direction to talk about the facts," he said at the time.

Microsoft's new advertisement continues in that vein, a Microsoft spokeswoman says. "We were looking at targeting the IT pros. IBM's was a broader Linux movement campaign," she says. "It's the IT professionals who want the facts."

According to Perens, the advertisement simply shows that Microsoft is afraid of Linux, and give the open source operating system more credibility in the enterprise. "I think that Microsoft should continue this campaign in other publications," he says. "In fact, they should buy some TV ads; maybe a Superbowl ad."

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