It's tough to hire engineers in Silicon Valley these days. As the world becomes increasingly broken down into bits, and startups ride the Internet wave 2.0 of opportunity, engineers are back in demand.

If the best and brightest don't manage to strike out on their own, they are likely to end up at Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, which are aggressively trying to hoard them all.

It's apparent that these three giants are battling it out in a capital-spending arms race for brains. All can offer plenty of money, of course, so to attract the best candidates there has to be something more.

At Google those extras include free gourmet food and WiFi-enabled buses, play time (my favorite), potential bragging rights as the company that sucked the life out of Microsoft, and the ability to have an impact well beyond online advertising -- like sending man back to the moon. As propositions go, this one is hard to beat for anyone seeking to pursue something noble, something intellectual, something, literally, out of this world.

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