If you can't beat em, join em. Novell has responded to Microsoft's Get the Facts campaign against open-source software and launched a website devoted to "unbending the truth" about Linux in the enterprise.

Novell head Jack Messman will also send an e-mail to Novell customers that debunked a memo that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer sent to his customers last week. In his e-mail, Ballmer wrote that Windows has economic and security advantages over open-source software and warned that Linux users are fair game for intellectual property lawsuits.

Ballmer's widely publicised message came at the one-year anniversary of Microsoft's Get the Facts campaign, and he cited passages from studies conducted by industry analysts that show Windows to be superior to Linux.

In response, Novell has accused Microsoft of cherry picking from the analyst reports. "Microsoft is being very selective in what they are pulling from these studies," said Bruce Lowry, a Novell spokesman. "Microsoft is trying to spread FUD in the market place with incomplete arguments."

Contrary to the message Microsoft is trying to get across, the studies don't chide Linux at all, according to Novell. For example, a Yankee Group report comparing the cost of Windows to Linux also says Linux provides "excellent performance, reliability, ease of use and security," Messman wrote .

However, Yankee analyst Laura DiDio, author of the report, cautioned that Novell may now be quoting selectively from her report to show Linux in a favorable light. You can make a case for either operating system depending on what the individual user's environment looks like, she said. "Unless you read the whole report, you can take things out of context. Novell is trying to use it for their own purposes," she said.

Novell also took issue with Ballmer's comments that no vendor today stands behind Linux with full intellectual-property indemnification. "In fact, it is rare for open source software to provide customers with any indemnification at all," Ballmer wrote. That's wrong, according to Messman. Novell does offer its customers protection from copyright claims. "If the world were as Microsoft states, Linux would not be the world's fastest growing operating system," Messman wrote.

Novell is not alone in critiquing Microsoft's campaign and Ballmer's e-mail in particular. Dion Cornett, an analyst with Decatur Jones, an equity research firm, wrote in a research note on Monday that Ballmer obviously selected portions of the analyst reports to make his case.

"If the 'independent studies' are as accurate as Ballmer claims, then AOL, Amazon, Google and Linksys - all companies that are standardising on Linux - must be wrong in how they operate their massive IT infrastructures," Cornett wrote.

Additionally, Cornett believes Microsoft's campaign may have an adverse effect on the company and little impact on open source vendors such as Red Hat and Novell. "In fact, the campaign may have the opposite effect of validating Linux as a viable threat to Microsoft's business," he wrote.

Novell entered the Linux business last year with the acquisitions of Ximian and SuSE Linux. It is, for now, limiting its public response to "Get the Facts" to the website and Messman e-mail, it said.

Novell's "Unbending the Truth" website is at: www.novell.com/linux/truth/.

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