Open Source Group Blasts Gartner For Linking Linux To Windows Pirating

U.K.-based analyst Annette Jump contended Thursday that 80 percent of machines pre-loaded with Linux eventually are equipped with a counterfeit copy of Microsoft's Windows, the world's dominant client operating system.

"System integrators put Linux on as a way of staying legal and avoiding Microsoft," said Jump in an interview Thursday, but later, often before the systems reach end users, illegal copies of Windows are added. "Few will admit this outright, but that's what they're doing," she alleged.

Open Source Industry Australia (OSIA) rejected Jump's research in no uncertain terms.

"We dispute Jump's conclusion and her figures. Without a fully specified methodology and a presentation of all the raw numbers and polling methods, these findings are extremely dubious. Additionally, Jump's logic is problematic at best and farcical at worst," wrote Steven D'Aprano, a spokesman for OSIA in an e-mail to TechWeb.

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"Let's get the key fact out of the way," D'Aprano went on. "There is no advantage to PC resellers in using Linux as a means of shipping lower price PCs, which in turn are used to pirate Windows. These PC vendors can simply ship a PC without any operating system at make the resulting computer even cheaper.

"If PC vendors are selling computers with Linux pre-installed, that can only mean there is demand for Linux on the desktop," he added.

Not true, Jump said. When the numbers of Linux-equipped desktops are compared with users actually running the open-source OS, a major discrepancy appears. "The percentage of new PCs that use Linux is reduced significantly when this OS change is taken into account," Jump wrote in her report.

In 2004, for instance, Gartner estimated that 5 percent of all systems will be shipped with Linux, but that only 1.3 percent of the world's machines will actually use the OS. In some regions where Linux is especially popular, the disparity is even greater. In the Asia-Pacific area, of which Australia is a part, 10.5 percent of PCs come pre-loaded with Linux, but only 2.3 percent of the systems use the open-source operating system.

The OSIA also took issue with Jump's logic.

"If Gartner's conclusion that pre-installing Linux encourages people to steal copies of Windows were correct, then we can extend this by stating that pre-installing Windows in turn must clearly encourage people to pirate application-level software," said D'Aprano. "One can quickly see how this process of thought leads to ridiculous conclusions. We're surprised that Gartner started down this path."

And the whole idea of Linux contributing to Windows piracy was a joke, the OSIA alleged. "If Microsoft has a problem with piracy, it shouldn't be blamed on OEMs who sell PCs with Linux pre-installed," continued D'Aprano. "Should we discourage supermarkets from selling plain bread, because shoppers might steal butter? We have a better product at a cheaper price and Microsoft can't compete except by blaming us for piracy."

Not so fast, said Jump. It's more the other way around, that easily-obtainable Windows counterfeits lead to an artificially-inflated popularity of Linux. "The widespread availability of pirated versions of Windows at a fraction of the cost of a legal copy stimulates the growth of Linux on PCs in emerging markets," she wrote in the report.