Microsoft warned over anti-Linux ads

Microsoft, an American company which makes an office package for the Mac and also a useless “operating” system for the PC, has been reprimanded for the British Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for a misleading advert in which it claimed that the “Total Cost of Ownership” for Linux was higher than that for its offering, Windows XP (also known as Windoze). The advert, under the banner “Get the Facts”, claimed that Linux could be ten times as expensive as Windows - but the comparison was based on vastly different hardware, as the Windows figure was based on PC hardware (albeit high-end hardware, a twin Xeon) while the Linux figure was based on top-end IBM mainframe hardware. In fact, Linux was developed on a 386 PC, and most people who run Linux run it on Pentium-type PCs. In fact, it’s a bit of a cheek for Microsoft to claim something so stupid, and it was clearly playing on the ignorance of the masses. On one hand, it’s likely that new Linux users would buy commercial packages like SUSE’s or Mandrake’s, which cost about £60. These packages come with a huge range of software, and it can do this because the vast majority of it is completely free. This includes an office package, OpenOffice, at least two “desktop environments”, two database packages, and a lot else. Once you buy one of these, it’s possible that you won’t buy another software package for years. Microsoft’s Windows XP Home edition costs £157.45 (including VAT, the British purchase tax, which is 17.5% of the product price), and that’s just for the operating system and a few very basic applications and games.

Most people who run Linux run it as a server rather than as a desktop system, however, and the best-known web server package for Linux is called Apache, and like Linux itself, that’s free. The server editions of Windows all cost hundreds of pounds. It’s true that Linux cannot (at the moment) run the various services Microsoft has invented (possibly in order to tie people to its proprietary operating system), but there are free equivalents, some of them longer established. Then there is the security issue. Viruses are simply not a threat to Linux, because ordinary users cannot get access to anything which affects the whole system. Even for a desktop system, I would tell anyone buying a new system not to use Windows unless they really have to. The security risks are just not worth it.

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