The pundits turn on the analysts in this column, a post-mortem
on the large gap in figures presented by Gartner, which claimed
Linux holds 8.6 percent of the server maket, and IDC, which claims
27 percent. Mr. Bryar is fair to IDC's analyst but cautions that
there are factors at work in the analyst business that have less to
do with getting the best numbers and more to do with marketing the
"As early as 1999, Kusnetzky admitted Linux was "a
market that has been really difficult for us to get our arms
around." He told CNN, "We have no real way to track the number of
copies of Linux that are installed." Coming from an analyst who has
generated some fairly precise numbers and percentages, that should
be a concern. Kusnetzky has said himself that all "we can keep
track of is the money generated by commercial shipments." These are
precisely the numbers that Hewitt claims to be following.
So what to make of all this? I'd suggest caution and lots of it.
While IDC has made a real effort not to tell businesses what they
want to hear, nearly all commercial market research firms spend far
more time marketing their research than collecting it. Many of the
survey designers are young and not very experienced. Research
information has a short shelf life and only rarely do market
research firms get confronted with their errors. This makes for a
very sloppy research environment.
Further, many companies are too deeply involved with their
clients to provide stiff analysis. Most companies shopping for
market research are looking for good news, not bad. It's a rare
marketing firm that goes broke telling clients what they want to
hear, and many times analysts depend heavily on the firms they
claim to analyze. For example, Dataquest been very heavily involved
in promotional events such as one held last year that plugged data
storage systems. The conference was underwritten by storage vendors
who heavily promoted Dataquest "research." The company's "analysts"
dominated the list of speakers at that event. If you believe that
the "research" presented at that show was objective, I have a
bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you."
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