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Linux Stocks Are Riding the Open-Source Comeback

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WE'VE WITNESSED SOME mythic events in tech history recently. One eye-popper was Steve Jobs and Bill Gates sharing a stage for the first time in 20 years at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference last month. Perhaps even more shocking than that is Microsoft's willingness — reluctant as it may be — to share a stage with the Linux community.

Long seen as a thorn in Microsoft's side, Linux is an operating system that is based on the ideas of freedom and collaboration. It opens up its code so programmers can add or change applications to suit their needs. By doing so, open source offers a level of customization that proprietary software like Windows, which keeps its code locked up, never had.

So when Microsoft teamed up with Linux provider Novell last November in an effort to make Linux and Windows more interoperable, it sent shockwaves throughout Linux circles. Microsoft has subsequently inked more partnerships with Linux providers, most recently with desktop Linux provider Linspire.

Has Microsoft drunk the open-source Kool-Aid? Not exactly. It appears that Microsoft is doing whatever it can to protect its turf, even if it means sleeping with the enemy. The open-source operating system and its software bundles, such as OpenOffice, are starting to chip away at Microsoft's precious cash cows — Windows and Office — and Microsoft is taking heed.

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