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Moonlight shines more brightly



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September 5, 2007 9:26 am

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The effort to bring Microsoft Silverlight to Linux is moving forward with new speed, as Microsoft and Novell have agreed to work together to make this happen. This builds on work started by Miguel de Icaza and the community within the Mono project. Mono, for those who don’t know, is an open source project designed to let applications built for the .NET environment run on multiple platforms, including Linux. Silverlight was designed by Microsoft for delivering rich internet applications on Windows and Mac. Moonlight will expand this to Linux, giving Linux user more choices for consuming Web content. Novell is demoing the latest rev of Moonlight this week at the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam.

You can get more detail, and keep track of Moonlight’s path, here.

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5 Comments

  1. By:Alex

    Bruce,

    You posted on Matt Asay’s blog that only SUSE Enterprise Linux will be able to include Moonlight in its distribution.

    What is the reason for this? Is it video codecs, or is it more than that?

  2. By:Bruce Lowry

    Hi Alex:

    Actually, Moonlight will be able to run on any distro supported by Mono, which is most of the major distros. Under the terms of the agreements we have with Microsoft, Novell customers are covered by Microsoft’s covenant not to sue over patents. In terms of Moonlight, that means that, if you download Moonlight from Novell (which is free of charge), you are considered a Novell customer of Moonlight, whether you run it on SUSE Linux Enterprise or on another distribution. If you get the Moonlight code from elsewhere, you are not considered a Novell customer, and so don’t fall within the covenant. Moonlight is an open source project, so users will have the flexibility to choose whichever path they want. The bottom line is Moonlight will run on the main Linux distros.

  3. By:Alex

    Bruce,

    I realise it will _run_ on other distros, but that’s not quite the question I’m asking – I’m asking whether other vendors will be able to distribute it.

    While I realise you can’t speak for them, if the Covenant is required for them to be able to do that legally, they’re obviously not going to be able to distribute it. If they can’t distribute it, it’s difficult to see how it’s genuinely free software.

  4. By:Bruce Lowry

    Hi Alex:

    Other distros can distribute Moonlight without their own covenant with Microsoft. There are various scenarios. Since Mono and Moonlight are open source projects, any distro that wants to incorporate Mono can do so, including with its Moonlight components. Some do, some don’t. Any distro can also include just Moonlight. In either of these first two scenarios, the distros’ users would download a codec from Microsoft’s website, possibly as part of an automated download and install process. These users would be covered under Microsoft’s and some others’ patents for their use of the codec. However, these users would not have patent rights from Microsoft with respect to Mono and Moonlight. Although we are not aware of any need for such patent rights, this could be a concern for some potential users.

    For those users who want more comfort about the patent issue, the agreement we struck with Microsoft on Moonlight offers a third scenario, which involves downloading the code (free of charge) from Novell. Here’s how it works. Another distribution decides it wants to offer Moonlight to its users so they can render Silverlight content. In their installer process, they have a step where the code is automatically downloaded from the Novell website and installed. Distributions could make this essentially seamless to end users. In this third scenario, the distro’s users would also download a codec from Microsoft’s website, possibly as part of the same automated download and install process. Under this approach, non-Novell distributions can obtain and run Moonlight, knowing that the code their users receive from Novell and the codec their users receive from Microsoft are covered by patent rights. Although, again, we’re not aware of any need for such patent rights for the code, this approach provides the option for those who wish to receive it.

    Does this clarify? Thanks.

  5. By:Alex

    hi Bruce,

    Yes, that helps – obviously the codecs are a completely separate issue.

    I think your key statement is this:

    “However, [other distro] users would not have patent rights from Microsoft with respect to Mono and Moonlight. Although we are not aware of any need for such patent rights, this could be a concern for some potential users”

    It really doesn’t inspire much confidence, especially since the covenant is time-bounded, and that it claims not to cover “Clone Products” that did not exist at the time of the agreement (as Moonlight does not).

    I think if you want people to take up Moonlight, you need to really work on the legal security side of things, and the patent covenant doesn’t really help there. If you think no patent rights are needed, you should promote that and defend that if you want people to have confidence in the platform. IMHO, obviously.

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