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Silverlight glow dimmed by cross-platform concerns

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MIX07 Microsoft has been taken to task for harming the web by going solo on technology and standards and not adopting a more open development approach.

Open source advocates from BMC Software, Mozilla, project Mono, and Zend Technologies voiced their continued support for AJAX while probing Microsoft over plans to open source Silverlight, the company's proposed alternative to Adobe Systems' Flash that was released as a beta on Monday.

Microsoft was criticised during a Mix 07 panel discussion on using open source applications with .NET for dragging its feet over new standards and technologies such as Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) support in Internet Explorer 7.0.

Microsoft was brought down to earth with a bump just hours after executives had preached the cross-platform and cross-browser virtues of Silverlight to web and content creatives, some using popular Adobe and Macromedia offerings.

The problem is, while Silverlight works in Safari, Firefox, and Mac versions 10.4.8 or higher on PowerPC and Intel in addition to Internet Explorer and Windows, support for Linux and Opera - to name just two other popular alternatives - is missing, with little prospect of support coming from Microsoft.

Sam Ramji, Microsoft director of platform technology strategy, told Mix 07: "Post PC and Mac we will figure out where there is a sustainable platform."

According to Ramji, Microsoft must act judiciously in committing resources to projects that have life and are more than mere one-offs. "It comes back to sustainability...we have to look at where we can do the right thing for the long term," he said

Open source representatives applauded Microsoft's work in porting to Safari, Firefox, and Mac, using more generous software licensing terms, and putting open scripting languages Python and Ruby on .NET. However, the Mix 07 panelists also listed areas where Microsoft could try harder and is creating problems.

Responding to Ozzie's criticism of AJAX earlier, as being "limited", Zend co-founder Andi Gutmans said: "While AJAX is not necessarily efficient technology, the nice thing is the reason it's popular is because it interoperates well with any browser and operating system. The market wants something that runs everywhere - the mainframe, on Linux, on Power."

Gutmans and co. believe the best way towards platform ubiquity and interoperability is by open sourcing code. Fellow panelist Miguel de Icaza, co-founder of Mono and start-up Ximian, bought by Novell, called on Microsoft to "give" more.

Ramji made it clear Microsoft has no plans to open Silverlight.

Mike Schroepfer, Mozilla vice president of engineering, said open source is vital to the creative spirit of the internet: "One of the reasons the web has been so successful is because the web is open. Anything that takes us away from that takes us away from the creativity of the web."

BMC's chief architect of open source strategy William Hurley said Microsoft has posed issues for browsers from organisations such as Mozilla because most websites and developers' default is IE. With Microsoft not supporting innovations that are founded in Mozilla, users and websites are also unable to support new Mozilla features, thereby slowing down the pace of innovation and adoption.

Two bones of contention were SVG support in IE 7.0 and the fact browser-based applications such as those from Oracle require IE. "People say I can't add this feature if it's not in a Microsoft product, so that's a very limiting factor," Hurley said. He added IE should provide more standards support "so I don't have to download IE [and] the website doesn't lose business".

de Icaza added: "Microsoft is trailing the pack and it's causing adoption problems because web developers can't count on it."®

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