Microsoft announced today it will make a US$15 million investment in Internet services firm Akamai Technologies. Akamai, in turn, will add support for Microsoft's Windows software to its Web content distribution system.

Akamai offers a service called FreeFlow to companies that operate large Web sites. Designed to speed the delivery of Web content to end users, the service makes use of Akamai's network of more than 900 servers located in 15 countries.

Akamai will integrate support for Microsoft's Windows media technologies into FreeFlow, meaning its customers will be able to distribute video, audio and other multimedia content using Microsoft's streaming media format, an Akamai spokesman said.

Akamai will also port its FreeFlow software to Microsoft's server operating systems, including Windows NT. Akamai's existing server software runs on Linux, the Akamai spokesman said. Linux is a Unix-like operating system, that has emerged as a potential competitor to Windows.

Microsoft also said that its Streaming Media Division has agreed to purchase content delivery services from Akamai. The services will be used to accelerate distribution of Microsoft's own content with the goal of providing a better end user experience for its customers, and of accelerating the growth of the digital media market.

Microsoft's investment will give it a stake of about 1 percent in Akamai. Akamai has garnered plenty of attention of late - data networking firm Cisco Systems invested $49 million in the company earlier this year, while Apple Computer invested $12.5 million.