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Microsoft exec takes aim at open source

New platform chief, Ashim Pal, says software giant has been on the defensive against Linux and other rivals.

Microsoft has appointed a new executive to persuade business customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa to choose its software over open-source alternatives.

Ashim Pal on Monday became Microsoft's senior director of EMEA platform strategy, having previously worked as vice president of technology research services at the Meta Group.

In his first interview since starting his new role, Pal indicated that he thought Microsoft had been too understated and low-key in its marketing approach.

"I believe we've been defensive in the past--and a bit introverted," Pal said. "When the opportunity arises, we should be telling our story with confidence."

Microsoft is facing a greater threat than ever before from Linux. Research published by The Yankee Group last month found that about a third of businesses are planning to migrate at least some Windows machines to Linux.

A string of high-profile adoptions of open-source software in recent months--including the Norwegian city of Bergen--have added to the perception that Microsoft's grip on the software market is beginning to ease.

Pal, though, doesn't accept that Linux is Microsoft's primary adversary.

"It's one competitor--but not the only one," Pal said. "Whether it's Linux or blue cheese, I don't care."

Pal claimed that he would be instructing the Microsoft sales teams "not to tell stories against competitors" but instead to focus on meeting customer needs.

"We're offering products to solve specific problems, such as cost reduction or risk reduction," he said.

Pal will be based at Microsoft's Reading, England, campus but will be working closely with Microsoft's general manager of platform strategy, Martin Taylor, who is based in Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.