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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.

Novell

For some people, it’s still surprising what a few hundred million dollars can buy. Case in point: the open source community was taken aback in November, when Microsoft noted that it will pay Novell $308 million to market and distribute Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise server.

The unusual partnership, creating friendliness where rivalry once flourished, will lead to collaborative development on other technologies, but is primarily geared at boosting interoperability with Microsoft Windows. Given the major push that Microsoft will be making in the next year to promote its much-hyped new operating system, Vista, it’s not surprising that it’s become a top priority to make sure the system plays well with others. Even in the photo op of Novell chief Ron Hovsepian shaking Microsoft honcho Steve Ballmer’s hand, the two were dressed so similarly that it was almost tough to tell them apart. (Note to Novell-Microsoft sales reps: welcome to the “Year of the Blue Blazer.”)

In addition to harmonizing its products with Novell, Microsoft has also promised that it won’t launch patent suits against customers using Novell’s open source products. In making the announcement, Ballmer noted that the agreements will help bridge the divide between open-source and proprietary software.

Only days after the deal was struck, the comments on the sturdiness of that bridge began coming. The Software Freedom Law Center warned that Microsoft’s patent pledge had little value, while both Sun and the Samba project criticized the arrangement, and Sun boss Schwartz said some of the articulated motives — mainly, to make Java open source through the open source GPL — were “nonsense.” Whether the acid comments die down and Novell and Microsoft actually do build that bridge should be worth watching.

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