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Yesterday Novell announced the upcoming availability of Open Workgroup, the first workgroup suite for small businesses that provides flexy solutions based on "proven" open source-based software.Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition includes Linux server and desktop components along with an e-mail client, collaboration tools and a slew of open source office products. Supported by software apps certified to work with SUSE Linux Enterprise, the suite boasts a simple, but customizable, installation process and remote management for client IT infrastructures. The Open Workgroup announcement comes shortly after Novell inked an open source-related deal with Microsoft which, in short order, developed similar relationships with LG, Xandros and Linspire. Dana Blankenhom over at ZDNet dubbed this string of relationships a "keiretsu," or a collection of companies with interlocked business relationships. He also surmises that Novell's Open Workgroup announcement was also a peek into Microsoft's open source strategy. Considering Microsoft's recent patent allegations sparked a gathering of the open source gatekeepers to decide how best to approach "the enemy," we're all dying to know what steps both sides are going to take in the next couple of weeks. The situation doesn't just rival our favorite Tolkien tales; it will also cause massive ripples into the future of open source technology. But really, it has already begun to do that. With regard to Open Workgroup, Blankenhom elaborates on the evidence, weaving a strategy together in the process: "Microsoft has channels covering all areas of the market. Now, when those channels need an open source solution, there’s something they can point to." He also noted the open source purveyors with which Microsoft has developed relationships have chosen sides in the face-off. That sounds about right. As we explained when we covered the LG relationship, Microsoft announced its patent license litigation lust could be sated if open source distributors would lend themselves to patent and cross-licensing liaisons. Sound like a messy compromise? Oh, it is. So messy, in fact, that Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttlesworth likened the activity to racketeering. And the Free Software Foundation immediately moved to alter its GNU GPL 3.0 to prohibit the accommodation of such bonds. Revision GPLv3 will be published on June 29. But we digress. Novell's Open Workgroup Suite Small Business Edition supports up to five servers and 200 users, and is slated for general availability in September '07. Hit www.novell.com to learn more.