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Linux Magazine’s Top 20 Companies to Watch in 2007

We pick the companies that are defining the future of Information Technology and will have the most impact on the Open Enterprises of 2007. It's the inaugural edition of our 20 Companies to Watch list and we guarantee that every company here will challenge how you think about Linux and Open Source before the year is out.

Microsoft

Once seen as a fierce penguin hunter, Microsoft has been working to shed its anti-Linux appearance, and it’s keeping its deal-making busy to do it. In a recent move, the Redmond behemoth expressed hope that it would soon enter into a patent arrangement with Red Hat that’s similar to the one it has with Novell. But even if those talks come to naught, Microsoft has implied that it might provide at least some type of indemnification for its customers using Red Hat Linux.

The strategy wouldn’t be surprising, given that Microsoft said in November that it would provide support and technology for Novell’s SUSE Linux users if they also ponied up for Windows. The deal with Novell was notable, not just because it turned bitter rivals into sweet-talking pals, but also because it gives a good indication of Microsoft’s new direction, many analysts posited. The agreement came just a few days after Microsoft struck up a partnership with open-source software maker Zend, as if the company was gauging the reaction of the community for a few days before bringing out the real surprise.

In chatting about the potential Red Hat partnership, Microsoft’s general manager of platform strategy, Bill Hilf, said that Redmond would like to strike similar patent deals with all the Linux vendors, but basically figured they had to start somewhere. The one-two punch of Novell and Red Hat is a heck of a start, and it’s worth watching mighty Microsoft to see if it can keep whipping up Linux-centered deals even as it deals with its first major operating system upgrade in over five years. Beyond Linux, Microsoft has also been touting greater interoperability with a number of different systems, which could pave the way toward Linux and other platforms making their way into more enterprises that traditionally have only looked out of Windows.

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