The Problem with “Research Companies”

I attended an event organized by a well known tech news group and sponsored by the company I am currently employed with on Tuesday, Dec 8. The event was kicked off by a speaker from a “research company” – you know, one of those that everyone wants to quote from as if they are authorative.

Anyway, the event was focussed on what the next big thing is and had Open Source as the theme. One would have thought that the research company would have something substantial to say. But, what the speaker had to say was just regurgitating stuff from some “research assumptions” about how people would use open source stuff.

A clear sign that it was going nowhere was when the speaker put up a slide that talked about how Microsoft is responding to open source. In that slide, there was a bunch of checked-off boxes saying that MS has responded and the 1st one said “Shared Source”. Shared Source? As an equivalent response to Open Source? I had to ask the question at the question time and I managed to get the speaker to acknowledge that shared source is not at all like open source and that it was not to be concluded from the slide that they were the same. Imagine if I did not ask the question – there would have been people in the audience thinking that since this “research organization” person said it, it must be true.

The speaker also made a lot of statements that reflected the speaker’s bias. It was said that Microsoft sees a lot of attacks and security vulnerabilities because if has the largest share of the desktop OS market (and the speaker conveniently left out mentioning that the open source webserver, Apache with almost 70% of the market is no where as attacked and vulnerable as MS’ IIS). And, get this, the speaker went on to say that the people doing the attacks are probably from the Linux and open source worlds! When this remark was made, I really wanted to standup and heckle the speaker (but I had to restrain myself). The speaker also said that people deploying open source should be wary of copyright/patent suits from Microsoft!

What a moron! At the tea break, I polled the attendees and they were saying that the “research company” speaker was totally off the track and was a waste of time to sit and listen to.

These “research companies” must be held to a higher standard of honesty and accountability. I have never come across a “research company” that had anything credible or worthwhile. All of them claim that their research techniques are credible and “industry standard”. If “industry standard” is humbug (which it is), then all of these chaps are just milking money from a whole lot of BS.

It would be good exercise to see how these “research companies” have fared over the years. If there is someone who has some report from say 1997 about how the IT industry will be 5 years out, it will be good to see how accurately (NOT!) the report predicted things. Why is it that some companies balk at seeing a fortune teller but are ok to pay for a $5000 report from one of these “research companies”?

May be I have to set up a Pillay Research company and do the same!

Oh, it was interesting to see a person from the BSA in the audience. I am sure the BSA rep was there to get some bullet points from the “research company” for more FUD from them.

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