Why in the world would Microsoft compare Windows 7 to Linux?

Why is Microsoft spending time educating retailers about Linux when buyers actually compare Windows with Mac OS X?

It appears that a portion of Microsoft's Windows 7 training materials have been released into the wild by a Best Buy employee. Why is this news? Well, a section of the training compared Windows 7 to Linux. The education material provided information that could help better position Windows 7 versus Linux.

The Windows vs. Linux comparison material (take a look for yourself at the Windows 7 training screen shots related to Linux) is likely defendable, but does not paint Microsoft as the open source-enlightened company that it'd like to become, or at least be viewed as.

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I should clarify "likely defendable." Most of the screen shots are, in my view, accurate. It's difficult to argue that any other OS has broader support for printers, digital cameras, video cameras, applications, or games than Windows.

On the other hand, it is easy to argue with such claims as the following: "There's no guarantee that when security vulnerabilities are discovered, an update will be created. Users are on their own." Or that Linux does not have "authorized support."

These claims are accurate if you're comparing versus an unsupported community distribution of Linux. But these claims are plain wrong if you're comparing Windows to a supported Ubuntu or Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop.

Microsoft could have handled this potential for misinformation by adding another column for supported Linux or adding a note at the bottom of each table.

Now here's the surprise: Best Buy doesn't sell Linux machines, so why in the world would Microsoft want to provide this information to Best Buy sales representatives? I understand that these types of marketing enablement material is created once and used essentially as-is for several audiences. Some of Microsoft's sales channels certainly also sell Linux machines. Hence, this education was intended for them and not necessarily Best Buy.

Note to Microsoft: Tailor these materials by audience in the future. Or even better, don't deliver marketing enablement for certain audiences that you wouldn't feel confident publishing on your public Web site. This applies to Microsoft as much as any vendor.

What I don't understand is why Microsoft is even putting Windows 7 on the same page as desktop Linux. This may be a comparison that I or other open source proponents want to see, but it's not a comparison that typical PC buyers consider. Why isn't OS X in that comparison table? Shouldn't Microsoft be comparing with the operating system that PC buyers consider to be comparable, if not superior, to Windows 7? Maybe that was another section of the training material?

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p.s.: I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions."


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