IBM Corp., NEC Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and Fujitsu Ltd. announced plans Wednesday to begin working together on strengthening the Linux operating system.

The four companies will jointly commit several hundred researchers to the project, which will focus on enhancing the reliability of Linux to make it more suitable for use in large organizations and corporations. The results of the project, which is expected to last between one and two years, will be published to the global Linux community, the four companies said in a statement.

All four companies are promoting Linux servers to corporate clients and the joint work is hoped to speed development of the operating system and make it more reliable.

Demand for Linux-based servers is rising fast in Japan. In October last year, International Data Corp. (IDC) predicted shipments of Linux-based servers would be 41,200 in Japan during 2000, an increase of 144 per cent on the previous year and accounting for 7.8 per cent of all server shipments during 2000. This compares with 9.4 percent for Unix, 18.3 per cent for Windows 2000 and 69.2 per cent for Windows NT.

IBM Japan, in Tokyo, can be contacted at NEC, in Tokyo, can contacted at Hitachi, in Tokyo, can be contacted at Fujitsu, in Tokyo, can be contacted at