The question Is Microsoft going to produce an operating system based on Linux? asks whether Microsoft plans to develop a Linux-based operating system. It references an article from source that appears to be more or less reputable.
In this article, a Microsoft spokesperson is quoted verbatim, and the quote states explicitly that Microsoft are developing an operating system which "is a custom Linux kernel complemented by the kinds of advances that we have created in Windows itself". The accepted answer quotes a Microsoft website which confirms the statement by the Microsoft spokesperson.
Apparently the question was not whether the Microsoft spokesperson actually made that statement, but whether Microsoft was working on such an operating system.
I was surprised to find that this question is considered on-topic by people who understand skeptics.SE much better than I do, but I'll follow the suggestion to discuss this on skeptics.meta so that I can eventually comprehend the rationale behind this.
To quote the FAQ:
This site is about applying scientific skepticism. We only accept answers based on independently verifiable applications of the scientific method ("facts").
So there are three requirements that acceptable answers must meet (independence, verifiability, based on scientific method). Let's go through them one by one.
The question quotes a Microsoft spokesperson. The accepted answer uses a Microsoft website as its reference. This is no independent evidence. Any statement by Microsoft about their future plans cannot, by definition, be independent. It's extremely difficult (if not impossible) to imagine what form such independent evidence would take. Would a Microsoft whistle-blower from the "Linux-based development department" be considered independent evidence? Do we need something like an article in which the authors conclude e.g. from observing the job advertisements that Microsoft has posted in the last few months that Microsoft has shifted their attention to the development of Linux-based operating systems?
Evidence like these two far-fetched examples are unlikely to emerge. But what type of independent evidence would be needed, then?
Even if there was independent evidence, that evidence would be difficult to verify. The business plans of Microsoft are not publicly available. How can we know whether the claims by that independent source (e.g. the whistle-blower, the article authors) are true? Can we ever?
This question doesn't appear to be something that can be answered by using the scientific method. It fails already when it comes to falsifiability. The hypothesis at hand is that Microsoft is going to produce a Linux-based operating system. This is a projection into the future – even if there was a way to test whether Microsoft was working on such an operating system now, there is no way to be sure that these plans can't change.
In fact, I'm rather lenient when it comes to this part of what is on-topic for skeptics.SE. There are many good and acceptable answers on skeptics.SE which are not, strictly speaking, based on the scientific method. Accepted answers to the plenty "Did XY say Z?" questions typically consist of someone providing a suitable reference for Z, and everyone is apparently happy with this type of answers even though it doesn't have much to do with the application of the scientific method.
What all this boils down to is, I think, whether this is a type of question for which answers can exist that meet the skeptics.SE standards. I don't think that such answers are possible – and as it is, neither of the two top-voted answers produce independent evidence, neither presents verifiable facts other than statements by the involved company, and neither answer is based on the scientific method. I assume that questions that can't produce acceptable answers can't be on topic.
Note that I focused on this particular claim about Microsoft, but I don't think that the scope of this discussion is restricted only to it. The questions that I raised above would apply to any other post that doubts whether a news piece about future plans of an individual, a company or an organization are true.
(1) Can someone explain to me how an acceptable answer can be provided that is based on
- applications of the scientific method
for this type of question?
(2) Are questions on-topic for which acceptable questions are virtually impossible to provide?