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Curl goes outside browser for Silverlight fight

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Microsoft's Silverlight 3.0 is still in beta and it promises major improvements, but the competition is already promising greater power.

The Novell-backed open-source implementation of Silverlight this week announced a preview of its second version. Moonlight 2.0 is based on Silverlight 2.0, but it now includes significant APIs from the Silverlight 3.0 beta.

Meanwhile, Curl - a company with its own epic history - is today expected to unveil the latest version of its interface programming language to help close the gap on the yet-to-launch Silverlight 3.0.

Curl 7.0 will let users run rich internet applications outside the browser by specifying their preferences using a simple a dialogue box. Previously, Curl relied on programmers to build in such out-of-browser capabilities into the content, with users then clicking a URL that fired up a separate window. It was an involved build process and confusing to the user.

RIAs have naturally attracted concern because they give PC users another opportunity to download and install potentially malicious code on their desktops. This could access important data and infect entire networks.

The company said Curl 7.0 isn't putting responsibility for desktop security in the hands of users downloading and installing all kinds of dangerous media-based content.

Curl 7.0 lets administrators override any controls and settings users have given to applications on the desktop and assert corporate security controls, the company said. The desktop data store is also encrypted, for added protection.

The Silverlight 3.0 beta ads to Microsoft's browser-based media player the ability to run applications outside the browser. It also features a sandbox to contain code and prevent malicious code from running wild. But it's unclear whether administrators can enforce corporate security policy and override desktop settings in Silverlight 3.0.

Curl claims it can bring weight to RIAs that's missing in Silverlight and Adobe Systems' AIR. Curl compiles an application to the hardware to speed performance and reduce round-trips between the client and server that can delay performance - particularly of data-intensive applications with large data sets. The company claimed it has won a number of customers who've found performance limitations with Adobe or using AJAX.

Curl's got a long history. Founded in 1998, with a rich language for building interfaces from the brains at MIT, Curl went on to become a subsidiary of Sumisho Computer Systems, notched up a number of big-name customers in Japan such as Nissan Diesel Motor, and was then re-launched in the US.

An idea ahead of its time, Curl now faces competition not just from Microsoft and Adobe, but also AJAX and array of open-source languages and frameworks. ®

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