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Linux distributor adds IBM, Compaq and Novell to growing list of backers

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Red Hat today revealed that IBM, Compaq and Novell has joined Oracle, Netscape and Intel as investors in the fast-growing Linux distributor. It also announced that Oracle had increased its equity stake in the company. Terms of the investments weren't disclosed, but that's less important than the fact these companies are investing in Red Hat. IBM last week announced it would ship servers and desktop PCs with Red Hat Linux, so some kind of financial help the company develop isn't a great surprise. In fact, Red Hat has been talking to Big Blue about co-operative projects and an investment deal since the autumn. Compaq's interest clearly arises from the increased demand for Linux from its customers. Certainly, Dell, according to chairman and CEO Michael Dell, interviewed in the LA Times, is planning to introduce Linux as a standard OS option -- at the moment, it's only available to high-volume purchasers -- and it's not hard to imagine Compaq considering the same sort of move. In fact, for the Linux community that's a particularly welcome move since it's a sign that demand for pre-installed Linux machines is growing -- and that means more-mainstream users. After all, the traditional Linux user is going to want to install the OS him or herself not get their PC vendor to do it for them. Novell's interest is more puzzling, since Netware effectively competes with Linux in the server software market. But since Linux is more widely perceived as a threat to Windows NT, perhaps Novell's line is my enemy's enemy is my friend -- strengthening Linux will do much more damage to Microsoft than Novell. Of course, whether this round of funding is exclusive to Red Hat isn't yet clear. IBM, for one, is interested in the wider Linux picture, which is why its recently announced support services cater for all the major Linux distributions. Either way, this latest round of funding is a boost for Red Hat, and will help it extend its lead over 'rival' distributors. ®

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