April 18, 2002

Anti-Linux ad promoting Windows XP on HP computers not quite what it seemed

- By Grant Gross -

If Hewlett-Packard likes Linux so much, as several recent announcements from the company seem to indicate, then why does it appear that the company was aiming ads at Linux users encouraging them to switch to Windows XP?
It turns out that HP was a victim of an overzealous European reseller of its PCs. Early Wednesday, Open Source developer Olivier Fourdan pointed out an ad on the French Google.com site that appeared on the top of the page when he searched for "Linux." We found the same ad on the Google U.K. site: "linux fans! be rebels! check hp PCs with Windows XP Professional."

HP reseller ad

Clicking on the text brought you to a page selling HP PCs. The ad was taken down as of today, after NewsForge contacted HP's Linux PR representative and HP Linux advocate Bruce Perens about it, and on Google U.K., that space was replaced with a link to a story about HP building a Linux-powered supercomputer for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Both Elizabeth Phillips, HP's Linux PR person, and Perens said they were surprised by the Windows XP ad. Perens was traveling this week and unable to comment further, but after Phillips checked into the ad, she said it wasn't quite what it seemed.

Phillips said the ad was taken out by an HP reseller, not by HP itself, and it was a stock ad for Windows XP that had been distributed to resellers. "Someone wasn't paying attention," she wrote. The ad ran for less than a week, she added.

Fourdan's initial reaction: "This makes me feel rather angry, since HP claims for months that they support Linux." When he first saw the ad, he thought it might have been an attempt at humor, but then he realized it wasn't.

After he was told it was a reseller's ad, he still had questions.
"For sure, the answer, 'it's not us, but one of our resellers who did that,' is an easy one," he said. "Don't they check how their resellers use their brand name?"

Phillips says she wasn't able to track down someone who could explain HP's policy on reseller ads, but she's looking into it. Martin Fink, general manager of HP's Linux Systems Operation, says the company is taking steps to keep resellers from promoting one OS over another in the company's "multi-OS strategy."

"We are taking measures to ensure something like this doesn't happen again," Fink said. "HP is clearly committed to a multi-OS strategy that includes Linux, HP-UX
and Windows and would never intentionally advertise one over another. HP is
committed to Linux and the Open Source community, which shows in our most
recent announcement that we are building the world's most powerful
Linux-based supercomputer."

It's true that HP has made a big Linux push since hiring Perens in late 2000 to be its internal Linux and Open Source advocate. Just this week, HP announced both the successful supercomputer bid and also the new HP Workstation x2100 for Linux, focused on the design automation and animation development industries. And at last month's FOSE government computing trade show, HP had a prominent Linux section of its booth, and HP representatives were talking up Linux and passing out a CD, "Gartner Multimedia presents: Linux in the Enterprise," featuring several HP execs, to members of the press.

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