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MainWin deal for Internet Explorer on Unix - will Office on Linux follow?

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Software developer Mainsoft has confirmed its MainWin Windows-to-Unix porting technology is being used by Microsoft. That said, its statement is pretty cautious about what Microsoft is actually porting, and for what versions of the OS.

So, Mainsoft states that Microsoft has signed for itself "the right to use MainWin to port Internet Explorer technologies" to Unix. Of the originally rumoured MS Office port, however, the release says nothing, merely noting cryptically Microsoft's right to use MainWin "potentially" with "other technologies" and "professional services".

The key point here, though, is that very mention of other technologies. According to Mainsoft, Microsoft has used MainWin with Internet Explorer already, bring the browser to Solaris and HP/UX back in 1997. Extending that is really no big deal and barely worth mentioning, but the provision in the new contract for .NET versions of Office is. The only snag is that Mainsoft clearly can't... well... mention it.

The plan to port Office to Unix - and, in particular, Linux - was first mooted a couple of days ago buy the WinInfo Web site.

Linux gets just one mention in Mainsoft's release - not in connection to Microsoft's latest contract, but the company does describe MainWin as a "Windows platform for Unix systems, including Linux". [our italics]

"MainWin includes the implementation of Win32 APIs and Windows-based services on Unix. Through strategic agreements with Microsoft, Mainsoft has access to Windows NT and Windows 2000-based source code. Mainsoft has incorporated several million lines of original Windows-based source code into MainWin. This ensures that applications developed with C, C++ and Dynamic HTML for Windows will run on UNIX as it does on Windows."

Clearly, then two softs - Main and Micro - are very close indeed, and it's highly plausible that if Microsoft is working on Office for Unix, it would do so in partnership with its chum.

As we said in our initial report on the Mainsoft story, "Michael Dell this week said the Linux desktop market now matched the Macintosh market in numbers. And Microsoft is volume company - that's how it likes to do business. But bear in mind that it's one thing to write applications for a closed rival hardware platform, and another thing altogether to write applications for other PC operating systems. That's what Redmond sees as its front lawn - and only Microsoft tanks can park there".

Being about to do Office for Linux, doesn't mean to say it'll happen. But the Mainsoft confirmation of Microsoft's use of its technology for IE, does make a move toward the Linux world more likely. ®

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