I came across an intriguing story this morning at silicon.com, concerning a ruling by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority against Microsoft, for one of the ads in the ongoing Get The Facts propaganda campaign.
One way of reading the story is that the ASA has told Microsoft itself to get the facts, and cease and desist from misleading advertising. The ASA’s argument is that Microsoft was being misleading because it claimed in the ad that Linux was ten times more expensive, but then compared a Lintel configuration with Linux on IBM’s zSeries mainframe, rather than making a Lintel to Wintel comparison. In other words, the ad headline promised to compare apples and oranges but then the smaller print compared apples with pineapples. As part of the ruling, the ASA exhorted MS to consult with its Committee of Advertising Practices’ Copy Advice Team in future.
For explanation sake, I should point out that in the UK negative advertising, directly comparing products and services is quite rare; a very different advertising culture than in the US.
Looking at the adjudication itself however, it is clear the ASA has done something far stranger than call out Microsoft for being misleading. It has apparently made a ruling on mainframe performance, and not in the mainframe’s favour.
See the statement below:
“The Authority understood, however, that the measurements for Linux were performed on an IBM zSeries, which was more expensive and did not perform as well as other IBM Series and that the advertisement implied running a Linux system was, in general ten times more expensive than running a Windows operating system.”
It seems the ASA has joined the ranks of firms that evaluate technology platforms.
One such is Meta Group, which audited the VeriTest study that underpinned the ad in question. There is plenty of debunking from folks like eWeek’s Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols out there.
If I was Microsoft’s Mission Critical Microsoft campaign manager though i would probably consider including the ruling in Get The Facts marketing materials…
The ASA has effectively made an unsubstantiated and contentious claim about IBM’s mainframe platform. Forgive me for my ignorance–but isn’t it set up to prevent such abuse? Within a critique of Microsoft the ASA ends up criticising the platform that Microsoft set out to FUD in the first place.
Organizations such as Boscov’s, Endress&Hauser, and Germany’s Post Bank would certainly all argue that mainframe Linux does offer decent performance in comparison to other IBM platforms–they have all made major commitments to the platform combo.
I think an organization such as the ASA should be more careful in its public pronouncements. After all, ASA adjudications become part of the marketing mix in a world of blogs and news stories like silicon.com’s.
If i were IBM’s zSeries group i would be somewhat irritated. After all, it is a tenet of its current positioning that zSeries *is* a viable platform for server consolidation, to run apps such as file and print and web serving. The comparison is not apples and oranges – but workload to workload.
I am not sure what experts the ASA used to help with its ruling, but anti-mainframe prejudice shines through.
Luckily for IBM, zSeries customers just ignore this common bias. Mainframe workloads keep increasing. Microsoft is just the latest in a long line of vendors with targeted campaigns designed to kill the platform. It won’t be the last.