Linux users get Silverlight too

moonlightIt’s true: Microsoft really has given up on world domination and accepted people will continue to use operating systems other than Windows. In a classic case of “can’t beat ’em, so join ’em”, Silverlight supports both Windows and OS X. Now though, Linux users can get in on the act too, with today’s release of Moonlight 1.0. And it comes fully endorsed (and indirectly funded) by Microsoft too.

Sadly Moonlight 1.0 is only Silverlight 1.0 compatible, so it only works with JavaScript, rather than “real”, CLR-based, programming languages, but Moonlight 2.0 is planned for the future and will be fully Silverlight 2.0 compatible (just in time for the release of Silverlight 3 no doubt! 😉 )

Mono team to Microsoft: build Moonlight desklet support into Silverlight

As you may be aware, the Mono team and Novell are creating a version of Silverlight for Linux called Moonlight. As part of that process, the Mono team added a “hack” that enables Silverlight apps to run on a Linux desktop, calling them Moonlight desklets. Miguel de Icaza, who heads up the Mono project blogged about them last year. It looks likely though that unless Microsoft adds its backing to desklets, they will remain a Linux-only hack, rather than a major Moonlight feature.

A few days ago, Miguel posted an update on the progress of developing desklets, and added a call to Microsoft to support these desklets in Silverlight. Apparently the Moonlight team do not plan on porting desklets across to the Mac and Windows, as it is a non-trivial task. I suspect that Microsoft will respond in time (though their focus at the moment must be on getting Silverlight 2 ready for an August release.) If they do not respond, then Flash obviously maintains one big advantage over Silverlight, namely AIR.

Moonlight gets Microsoft backing

“Big Blue”, the SIlverlight logoMicrosoft is a changing beast and those changes look, on the whole, to be for the best. They are of course still up to their usual tricks, such as their attempts to rig the vote in Sweden for example on their OOXML documentation standard, for which they are seeking ISO approval. However they appear to have realised recently that working with, rather than against, the open source community sometimes makes business sense. A case in point is Silverlight.

Microsoft claim that Silverlight will be cross platform. The problem until recently is that they were only supporting a some browsers on the Windows and OS X operating systems. That of course leaves two gaping holes: other Windows and OS X browsers and Linux (there is a third gaping hole: WinCE, but presumably Microsoft will tackle that at some point). Not so long ago, one might expect Microsoft to go into denial over Linux and to claim that IE on Windows was cross-platform enough for 99% of the people, so tough luck to the other 1%. They couldn’t do that this time around though as they are trying to take on Flash, which is pretty much truly cross-platform already. So perhaps it is not so much of a surprise that they intend to make Silverlight available on Linux.

Mono logoWhat is surprising is the chosen method. Rather than port Silverlight to a binary release for Linux on x86 machines only, they have taken the genuine open source route: they are backing Moonlight! Moonlight is part of the Mono project, which is attempting to create an open source, multi-operating system version of .NET.

Can Silverlight really be a Flash killer? That I do not know, but with the news that Microsoft are going to assist – via Novell – the development of the Silverlight .NET environment for Linux, Silverlight starts to look a very interesting product. And let’s face it, Adobe aren’t exactly a small lilly-white company about to be threatened by a giant (anyone remember the Dmitry Sklyarov saga?) So I at least will not shed any tears if Silverlight does kill off Flash. I predict a more likely outcome though (at least for the short term) is that competition will spur both projects on giving us both a better Flash and a better Silverlight product over coming years. Now that can’t be bad, so well done Microsoft.

Read the official story here