Moonlight: Silverlight for Linux

Miguel de Icaza writes:

Today we are formalizing a collaboration between Microsoft and Novell with the explicit purpose of bringing Silverlight to Linux and do this in a fully supported way. The highlights of this collaboration include:

  • Microsoft will give Novell access to the test suites for Silverlight to ensure that we have a compatible specification. The same test suite that Microsoft uses for Silverlight.
  • Microsoft will give us access to the Silverlight specifications: details that might be necessary to implement 1.0, beyond what is currently published on the web; and specifications on the 1.1 version of Silverlight as it is updated.
  • Microsoft will make the codecs for video and audio available to users of Moonlight from their web site. The codecs will be binary codecs, and they will only be licensed for use with Moonlight on a web browser (sorry, those are the rules for the Media codecs [details and workarounds on Miguel’s blog, as linked above]).
  • Novell will implement Silverlight 1.0 and 1.1 and will distribute it for the major Linux distributions at the time of the shipment. We will offer some kind of one-click install for Linux users (no “Open a terminal and type su followed by your password…” as well as RPM and DEB packages for the major distros and operating systems.

    This is an historical collaboration between an open source project and Microsoft. They have collaborated with other folks on the server space (Xen and PHP) but this is their first direct contribution to the open source desktop.

  • As I’ve argued previously, I see Microsoft moving increasingly towards supporting open source, especially in cases where they are the competitive underdog. They recognize that open source is a great way to displace an incumbent (in this case Adobe), and aren’t afraid to use the right tools for the job. As the competition with Google heats up, I expect to see a lot more open source from Microsoft in the Web 2.0 arena as well.

    Just to forestall all the angry comments telling me how I’m missing the wolf in sheep’s clothing, let me be clear that this doesn’t mean that Microsoft is a “friend” to open source, contributing for the greater good. Just like other companies that make significant contributions to open source, like IBM, Sun, HP, and Novell, or even open source companies like Red Hat or MySQL, it’s part of a competitive business strategy. And to the extent that Microsoft’s business is still threatened by open source in ways that IBM’s, say, is not, the support will be more measured and selective. But you can still expect more of it than you have in the past, and, over time, significant changes in Microsoft rhetoric about open source.

    More details on Microsoft’s silverlight here, and on Novell’s moonlight here.

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