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Microsoft ad campaign digs at Linux

The software giant launches a marketing assault on Linux, in a sign that the open-source solution may be a mounting threat to the company's server system sales.

Microsoft has launched a marketing assault on Linux, in a sign that the open-source solution may be a mounting threat to the company's server system sales.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company on Monday kicked off a global ad campaign in the United States that directs information technology managers to "get the facts" about Linux before buying anything but Windows. The company will run print and online ads in major technology publications such as Computer World, Information World, Network World and CNET Networks, publisher of, for about 18 months.

Microsoft would not disclose how much it will spend on the campaign.

In the ads, Microsoft points readers to a Web site, titled Get the Facts on Windows and Linux, that contains research on the cost benefits of licensing Microsoft's Windows Server System versus a Linux-based solution. Much of the research has been commissioned by Microsoft.

"In the past, when people were making decisions about Linux, it was more emotional like, 'I don't like Microsoft,' for example," said Martin Taylor, general manager of platform strategies for Microsoft.

"There's a lot of misconceptions in the marketplace around Linux, and this is our attempt to make sure people understand the facts around the total cost of ownership of Linux as it relates to Microsoft Windows," Taylor said.

The ad campaign is the first from Microsoft to take on Linux directly, analysts say, and it illustrates the company's effort to protect its interests, such as growing revenue from server system sales. Microsoft faces a potential decline in new customers if businesses are lured by Linux's lower-cost licensing fees compared with its own, which are in the hundreds of dollars.

"Microsoft is counting on picking up businesses migrating from Unix (to another operating system) for its next two years of growth in that area, and Linux is somewhat throwing a wrench in that plan," said Rob Helm, director of research at Directions at Microsoft, a research firm that tracks the software giant's business strategy.

"This is squarely aimed at companies considering Linux on servers," Helm said.

Microsoft is attempting to make a case for Windows Server System by downplaying potential savings from Linux. Linux may have lower initial licensing fees, but its overall costs to businesses in the form of training, support and integration are higher than Microsoft's in the long term, the company contends. "Leading companies and third-party analysts confirm it: Windows has a total lower cost of ownership and outperforms Linux," according to Microsoft's Web site.

Taylor said that the advertising campaign is part of a broader marketing push to reach businesses with its products. The Linux-focused ads will begin running in publications in India in mid-January.