Intel has deepened its commitment to Linux with an investment in Linux vendor Red Hat Software.
Netscape is also investing in the company, according to company executives.
Intel is expected to pursue the growing Internet service provider market with its expanded backing of Linux, a free Unix-like OS that has gained wide acceptance among small and midsize ISPs.
Red Hat is one of several companies that packages Linux for sale along with support offerings. The OS was invented by Linus Torvalds and has evolved on an "open-source" basis for several years. It is available as freeware over the Internet and has been seen by some as the most serious, fast-growing competitor to Microsoft Windows NT Server.
Observers said Intel is intent on pursuing the market for ISP servers, which today run predominantly on Unix.
"We've watched for the last three years the gradual growth of the market for Linux servers for service providers," said Michael Howard, president of Infonetics Research, in San Jose, California. Howard said Infonetics figures show 65 per cent of servers at small and midsize ISPs run Unix, and 30 per cent of those are Linux servers. The remaining 35 per cent run Windows NT, he said.
Howard said small and midsize ISPs will remain relevant even as massive providers dominate the core of the network, and will help to keep Linux growing.
"There are something like 5000 ISPs in the world, and over 90 per cent are very small. "They're the ones using Linux. They still have a place, and will for several years to come."