Meet the Head of Microsofts Linux Lab

Bill Hilf is the techie behind Microsoft's Linux listening post. He also is a key player in Microsoft's evolving strategy to reach out to the open-source community.

Hidden away in Building 17—when hes not on the road, working to counteract the impression among open-source backers that Microsoft is the devil personified—is Bill Hilf.

Hilf works for Microsofts general manager of platform strategy and Linux point man, Martin Taylor. Hilf is the director of Microsofts platform technology strategy group. He also happens to run a sizeable Linux lab on the Redmond, Wash., campus.

Linux running at Microsoft? Isnt that sacrilege? Think of it more as a competitive advantage, Hilf said.

"I am a non-Microsoft guy working at Microsoft," Hilf said.

His bio verifies his characterization. Before joining Microsoft a year-plus ago, Hilf was instrumental in driving IBMs Linux technical strategy for its emerging and competitive markets organization.

Before his stint at IBM, Hilf was the senior director of engineering at eToys, where he helped build the companys e-commerce business infrastructure. All told, Hilf has been involved with the open-source world for more than a dozen years, he said.

Hilf said he spends a lot of time "making Linux more transparent to Microsoft managers," doing a lot of educating around the open-source development, testing, deployment and licensing models.

Hilfs job sometimes involves telling the Microsoft product managers "where we suck" vis-a-vis open source. And sometimes it involves showing the Microsoft teams "where the big holes are in open-source environments."

"The bulk of my job is spent with the [Microsoft] product teams on where open-source software is going," he said.

Check out the Microsoft Channel 9 video interview with Hilf and Taylor.

But Hilf also interacts extensively with bigwigs in the open-source development world, maintaining close contacts with folks at Samba, Apache, Red Hat, Novell/Ximian and other key open-source developers.

"I try to help keep the peace," Hilf said modestly. "The reception from the open-source community has been amazingly positive."

Hilf said he has yet to have anyone he has contacted refuse a meeting, though he acknowledges he seeks to dialog with open-source developers, not "zealots."

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead the full story on Microsoft Watch: Meet the Head of Microsofts Linux Lab