Anti-Unix campaign relies on its foe

ITworld.com –

Even the anti-Unix camp relies on Unix.

An advertising campaign funded by Unisys Corp. and Microsoft Corp. aimed at converting Unix users to their high-end server products hit a sour note Monday.

The campaign, dubbed "We Have The Way Out," is intended to promote Unisys' ES7000 Enterprise Server, which is capable of running a data center version of the Windows 2000 operating system. That combination of Unisys hardware and Microsoft software is designed to compete against more widely used Unix-based server products from Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp.

The two companies claim in some advertisements that unlike their products, Unix "makes you feel boxed in" and "ties you to an inflexible system."

As it turns out, a Web site built to promote the advertising campaign is itself running on the FreeBSD operating system, a free version of Unix, according to Netcraft, which monitors the software and operating systems being used by Web site administrators. In addition, Netcraft revealed that the campaign Web site, online at http://www.wehavethewayout.com, is hosted on an Apache Web server, another free piece of software developed by open source programmers.

Representatives from Microsoft and Unisys Monday wouldn't comment on the anti-Unix campaign. A representative from Unisys did confirm that the two companies are sponsoring the effort, and said that the Web site was set up by a third-party company, which is also responsible for hosting the site.

Other attempts by the Redmond, Washington, software giant to disparage competing operating systems have not worked so well in the past. Last year, Microsoft led a public assault against open-source software, including the Linux operating system, warning that users adopting the operating system could tie up their intellectual property due to the license that governs its use.

Known as the GNU GPL (General Public License), the software license requires users to publish the source code of any piece of software developed under the license.

As it turned out Microsoft itself was using some open source software to run its free e-mail service Hotmail. It was also revealed that Microsoft uses open source software in a tool that it distributes to customers for running Unix applications on the Windows operating system.

While Unisys Monday downplayed the significance of the revelation about the anti-Unix campaign, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, the latest marketing hiccup exemplifies the market conditions Microsoft must overcome to win over customers who historically look to Unix vendors.

Microsoft may have an uphill battle, but it is making progress in its efforts to convince large enterprise customers that its server software can be reliable and sturdy enough to match Unix systems, said Tom Manter, director of server software research with Aberdeen Group Inc.

"Unix has pretty much had this market segment to itself with no competition except from different flavors of Unix because there was no Windows alternative," Manter said. "It really hasn't been until recently that there has been a Windows 2000 alternative."

The Boston-based research group recently published a study that claims large enterprise customers who use Windows 2000 data center software pay significantly less to manage a system compared to those running Unix. However, that survey was sponsored by Microsoft, Manter said.

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