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Study: Windows cheaper than Linux

A Microsoft-commissioned study finds that companies could save up to 28 percent by developing applications with Windows instead of with a combination of Linux and Java.

A Microsoft-commissioned study has found that companies could save up to 28 percent by developing certain programs with Windows instead of Linux, the software company plans to announce on Tuesday.

The study, conducted by Giga Research and paid for by Microsoft, compared the likely costs over four years for a dozen medium-size and large businesses that were developing Web-based portals. Giga examined the costs of creating a portal using Microsoft's Windows operating system and related development tools as compared with those of Linux-based systems using Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) tools.

"The primary conclusion of the study is that Microsoft offers a substantial cost advantage over J2EE/Linux as a development platform for the applications considered," Giga analysts wrote in the report, which is set for release on Tuesday.

Microsoft plans to use the study's findings in its effort to convince customers that Linux is not necessarily a cheaper alternative to Windows, once all costs have been taken into account.

"I want to make sure companies have facts in front of them," Martin Taylor, the company's recently appointed general manager of platform strategy, said. "Every time I see a study that says customers think Linux has a total cost-of-ownership advantage, that's a sign people aren't seeing this information."

However, critics of the Microsoft-backed study noted the small sample size in the Giga study, which polled just 12 companies, seven of which were running Windows and five of which were running Linux.

Giga analyst John Rymer said surveying just a few businesses made sense, given that the research firm was trying to get an in-depth look at the costs involved.

"For this kind of a study what you want is a real deep look at a relatively small number of companies," Rymer said. "Frankly, it's just hard to do 50 of those (interviews) in any reasonable time frame."

Rymer noted that the Giga study findings don't necessarily indicate that Microsoft's software is cheaper than Linux and Java in all cases, just for the portal-creation task it studied. Rymer said it is conceivable that Linux and J2EE could be more cost-effective for other types of applications.

IBM said the study's findings contradict what its customers are seeing, and noted that Linux continues to gain market share rapidly.

"The growth in Linux is amazing," IBM spokesman Ron Favali said.

Favali said server figures released by IDC last week and new data from research firm Gartner show that sales of servers with Linux are growing faster than with Windows. Last quarter, shipments of Intel servers running Linux rose 58.5 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 29.9 percent increase for Intel servers on the whole, according to Gartner figures provided by IBM.

Separately, Microsoft's Taylor took issue with recent pitch by Big Blue, in which it urged customers to consider consolidating Windows servers onto IBM mainframes running Linux. Contrary to IBM's claims of better performance, Taylor said Windows-based servers outperformed the IBM mainframes by 25 percent to 300 percent in various file-serving and Web-serving benchmark tests conducted by Microsoft.

"(Mainframe) performance isn't what people claimed it would be," Taylor said.