Giga goof a study in conflict

September proves that researchers and vendors make for some odd and conflicted bedfellows, while offshore outsourcing draws some tangible wrath in the U.S.

To quote Arte Johnson's catchphrase in that faux-German accent: "Verrrry interesting."

For a fleeting moment last month, it looked like Bill Gates and company might make the penguinistas eat crow after all. Researchers with Giga Information Group concluded that enterprises could save up to 28% by developing certain applications on Windows rather than Linux. For a while, it sounded like the TCO horn that Microsoft has been tooting for so long might have struck a real note with the analyst community.

And then, the tooting turned to hooting -- the horn to scorn.

Microsoft paid for the study. And critics complained that Giga looked into only 12 enterprises, and seven of those were running Windows, as opposed to five on the Linux-J2EE combination.

Did I mention that Microsoft paid for the study?

Giga made no secret of it, but doesn't credibility get caught in the crossfire here? Why can't Microsoft get these kinds of props without having to whip out the checkbook? And what if Giga found the opposite to be true -- that anyone who's still running Windows should have his head examined? Would Microsoft have canceled the check? Put the spin team at DEFCON 4 to deny and rebut?

Giga is a unit of Forrester Research, and just this week the "mother ship" stepped in. As a result of this mess, Forrester's CEO tweaked the company's "integrity policy" -- the Cambridge, Mass.-based analyst firm now forbids vendors that sponsor research studies to publicize the results.

But wait, there's more. Just a day or two later, another study comes out -- this one from Gartner Inc. and not funded by Microsoft.

Gartner analysts said that a desktop switch from Windows to Linux is a good financial move if -- and this qualification sounds more like a punch line than a prepositional phrase -- you're running older desktop operating systems. How about vintage operating systems? They're talking about Windows 95 -- the kind of OS that was desirable back when Jenny was still living on the block sans rocks.

How many people do you know who're running Windows 95 today? About the same number of people who saw Gigli and liked it.

Hey, hey, CIO, where did all our tech jobs go

We've been hearing for months about the potential for backlash in the U.S. from the offshore outsourcing trend. In September, we saw it.

It wasn't exactly like Berkeley in the 1960s, but about 50 labor leaders and jobless techies got out the placards and protested the BrainStorm Group's Nearshore & Offshore Outsourcing Conference near San Francisco. One protester said that offshore outsourcing is destroying Silicon Valley's job community. BrainStorm will have another offshore outsourcing conference in November in New York.

As far as we know, this was the first protest of offshore outsourcing that had all the trappings -- signs, marching and chants.

It probably won't be the last. More than 80% of the respondents in a study from Accenture said that their companies would permanently outsource at least one business function. The survey polled execs in North America and Europe.

Just picture Uncle Sam standing on the side of the road, extending his arm, holding up his hand, and yelling, "Slow down!" to an oncoming bandwagon. That's kind of what's going on with the offshore outsourcing trend.

A member of Congress recently asked for a study of its impact on the U.S. economy. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., also said that he plans to introduce a bill that would give money and training to techies who lost their jobs to cheaper overseas labor. The bill basically expands on a 40-year-old program that was designed to help workers in the manufacturing sector, many of whom lost their jobs under similar circumstances.

Better dead than re-used?

If you want to save your company money, maybe you need to stop looking down your nose at hand-me-down equipment. An IT recycler in the U.K. claims that reconditioned PCs offer the same spec as new machines at a fraction of the cost. They secondhand machines also have a lower failure rate than new ones because they've already been tested in a live environment. Kinda like a used car that's had its kinks worked out. But few drivers look down on used cars the way IT managers look down on used PCs. The biggest problem PC recyclers have is dealing with snobbery. Businesses either want new stuff, or to hang on to what they've got.

It's too bad PCs aren't biodegradable. Gartner found that it costs $85 to $136 to ditch an old computer, whether you're reselling it or consigning it to the landfill. An analyst said that you need to consider the cost per PC, the administrative overhead of the disposal method you choose, and the ramifications of improper disposal.

Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for what Gartner calls "TCO's last surprise" -- which is akin to an old PC falling on your head.

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