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Novell fills Microsoft Silverlight hole

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Microsoft has extended its controversial partnership with Novell to make the Silverlight cross-platform, cross-browser media player run on Linux desktops.

The companies are formalizing the unofficial work of a number of Novell-backed engineers and hackers that put Silverlight on Linux and Unix using pre-release code.

Members of the Mono Project devised a tool called Moonlight two months after Microsoft released early Silverlight code at its Mix 07 conference in May.

Novell's team has committed to put Silverlight 1.0 - released as final code this week - and version 1.1 on Linux. Microsoft will provide access to Silverlight test suites, specifications, and video and audio codecs used by Microsoft, while Novell has promised to implement and distribute Silverlight "for the major Linux distributions."

Microsoft said it is working with Novell in response to customer feedback. The company is acting, though, after the panning it took for dragging its feet putting Silverlight on Linux.

Microsoft heralded Silverlight as a cross-platform, cross-browser plug-in for building and delivering video content online, and as an alternative to Adobe's ubiquitous Flash media player. But in Microsoft's world, "cross platform" and "cross-browser" was apparently defined as support for Safari, Firefox and Mac versions 10.4.8 or higher on Intel and PowerPC, Internet Explorer and Windows.

The company refused to commit to other platforms, notably Linux, saying resources - or a lack thereof - were dictating its engineering priorities. Director of platform technology strategy Sam Ramji said unconvincingly at the time that Microsoft would "figure out where there is a sustainable platform" post PC and Mac.

It was a response from a company with a poor track record on Linux. The Novell-backed Mono Project, porting .NET to Linux and Unix, quickly hacked together Moonlight.

Miguel de Icaza, Novell's developer platform vice president and Mono founder, called the move 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.

"Microsoft benefits by making Silverlight reach the Linux and BSD spaces. We benefit by ensuring that users of open source operating systems get access to sites that adopt Silverlight to deliver content or spice up their web apps," de Icaza said. ®

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