Microsoft plans search software for Linux and Unix

Linux and Unix software from Microsoft? That will be one of the upshots of Microsoft's proposed buyout of Fast Search & Transfer, Microsoft officials said today. But that doesn't mean you'll see Microsoft software shifting platforms.

"You shouldn't expect to see SharePoint running on Unix," according to Kirk Koenigsbauer, general manager of Microsoft's SharePoint Business Group.

"Speaking of Linux and Unix, some people may be (mis)interpreting our continued support and investment in these platforms as a broader change for Microsoft -- so here's some color. We're making a pragmatic decision to continue to delight a core part of Fast's customer base that has chosen the Linux/Unix OS. You can bet that we'll innovate on Windows, too, and over time we hope customers will see .NET as a preferred platform choice," Koenigsbauer wrote in a blog entry on Microsoft's Web site today.

Microsoft officials first announced the completed settlement of its tender offer for Fast during the company's quarterly financial conference call yesterday. It then followed up this morning with a press release confirming the completed settlement, while also touching briefly on what kinds of future search products to expect under the Microsoft brand, and how the acquired search firm will fit into the Microsoft's structure.

In a teleconference held in January to announce the Fast acquisition, Microsoft officials said that the firm's technology will be used in conjunction with Microsoft's SharePoint portal for more scalable enterprise searches -- across billions of documents -- than the millions of documents now covered by SharePoint's built-in search capabilities.

According to the press release issued by Microsoft today, Fast will now become a Microsoft subsidiary, presided over by John Markus Lervik, who will move from his current role as Fast's CEO to new the job of corporate VP of enterprise search at Microsoft. Working at a new "dedicated enterprise research and development center" in Fast's home base of Oslo, Norway, the new Microsoft arm will also develop "further innovation" across "Windows as well [as] Linux and Unix."

The new subsidiary will work on development of a "comprehensive portfolio of enterprise search offerings," to include a new product called Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, and Fast's existing ESP product, which already runs on Linux and Unix.

Elaborating in his blog post today, Koenigsbauer said that Fast's ESP is suited to "both internal and customer-facing scenarios."

"By bringing together our two companies, customers will no longer have to compromise when evaluating the enterprise search solution that's best for them," according to Koenigsbauer. "We can now meet all their needs no matter how basic or complex: Search Server Express available as a free download; SharePoint offers search integrated with other business productivity tools; and for those with highly sophisticated needs, Fast ESP provides best-in-class capabilities for the most demanding search applications in both internal and customer-facing scenarios. And, you can be assured that with our expanded team in place, we'll be in an even better position to continue innovation across all three products, including Fast ESP on Linux and Unix."

Meanwhile, through a controversial agreement unveiled in late 2006, Microsoft is now working with Linux software distributor Novell on about ten different "interoperability" initiatives, although none of them come anywhere close to search technology thus far.

Also during the conference call in January, Microsoft officials acknowledged they had been talking with Fast about using the acquired search company's technology for searches in the wider arena of the Web. For some time now, Microsoft has been avidly pursuing a stronger Web-based search and ad platform to better position itself versus Google, Yahoo, and other rivals.

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