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Microsoft beefs up Linux evaluation efforts

The software giant is hiring three programmers, another indication the company takes the competing operating system seriously.

Microsoft is stepping up its effort to stay on top of Linux, another indication the software giant takes the competing operating system seriously.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company has been evaluating Linux for months--an ordinary process when a new technology emerges--and is now hiring three more employees for the effort, according to the company's Web site.

In the past, Microsoft has denied that Linux is a threat, but the company's actions prove it's not complacent that the Windows NT operating system rival will go away. The company has published a Web site devoted to a famed Mindcraft study that showed Windows NT outperforming Linux in some tasks.

Two of the jobs are for people who will "execute Microsoft's Linux strategy," which will be analyzing Linux, coordinating work at the company and educating the Microsoft sales force about the operating system.

Microsoft also wants to hire a person who will create the messages and strategies for dealing with "three major competitive focus areas: Sun, Novell and Linux." That person also will "support subsidiaries' efforts to influence and educate press and analysts," the job description said. In addition, the person will analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and pitfalls of the competing products.

Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates has predicted Linux will have only a limited impact. But analyst firms such as Dataquest predict Linux will be used on a quarter of servers by 2003.

Microsoft's Windows operating system began its popularity in desktop computers, but Microsoft has been trying to push it into more powerful servers with Windows NT, a more robust version.

At the same time, Linux, which is derived from the Unix operating system, is moving in the opposite direction. Unix has deep ties to the Internet and with networking in general, so Linux has been a natural fit for companies trying to add Internet infrastructure. But Linux programmers are at work trying to make Linux work on more ordinary desktop computers, where users have less technical expertise.

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