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Watch the Winter Olympics on Ubuntu: Silverlight 2 For Linux Is Here

Microsoft (s MSFT) officially announced the availability of an open-source Linux implementation of Silverlight 2 this week. The release of the runtime environment dubbed Moonlight 2 is based on a cooperation between Microsoft and Novell (s NOVL) that started in 2007 and also involves royalty-free access to proprietary media codecs owned by Microsoft.

The release will make it possible for users of Ubuntu and other Linux distributions to soon access online  programming like Sunday Night Football and the NBC Winter Olympics on their machines. However, don’t hold your breath for Netflix streaming or other DRMed content coming to Linux anytime soon.

The release of Moonlight 2.0 comes just 10 months after that of Moonlight 1.0. The new version is based on Silverlight 2.0, but already includes a number of features from Silverlight 3, which was released this summer, according to Moonlight developer Miguel de Icaza. Part of the feature set of Moonlight 2.0 includes smooth streaming, partial out-of-browser support and custom codecs. De Icaza wrote on his blog that Microsoft and the Moonlight team are working on bringing popular content streamed through Silverlight like Sunday Night Football and the NBC Winter Olympics to Linux as soon as possible.

The development of Moonlight is the result of a 2006 patent and licensing agreement between Microsoft and Novell that included Microsoft’s promise not to sue users of Novell’s SuSe Linux for technologies patented by Redmond. This promise was officially called a “covenant not to sue” and seen as the best way to harmonize patent licensing issues with the GPL. One result was that users were free to use Silverlight technology with Moonlight, but only if they got Moonlight directly from Novell. “This is a model similar to how Flash is distributed: there is a well-known location where you get your plugin,” explained de Icaza on his blog, adding: “The open source world does not work that way though.”

The new agreement now makes it possible to include Moonlight 2 with Ubuntu and other Linux distributions, with one caveat. Moonlight 2.0 doesn’t play many proprietary video formats right out of the box. The version distributed by Novell queries Microsoft’s web site to download licensed versions of these codecs. Makers of other Linux distributions would either have to negotiate with Redmond to get access to the same codecs, or strike direct licensing agreements with codec owners or distributors. Also, Moonlight doesn’t support Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM, so there won’t be any way for Linux users to access streaming video from Netflix anytime soon.

So what’s in it for Microsoft? One reason having Silverlight run on Linux is interesting to Redmond are connected devices. De Icaza told me that Microsoft’s covenant only extends to PCs, and not to mobile phones or set-top boxes running Linux. Of course, that doesn’t stop anyone from directly licensing the runtime environment for these use cases, and maybe even adding a license for PlayReady while they’re at it. De Icaza hinted at the development of Linux-based devices with Moonlight on his blog, stating in the comment section: “There are two companies that are experimenting with Moonlight and PlayReady right now, but they are both using it on systems that fit the definition of ‘device’.”

Adobe has been aggressively pursuing the deployment of Flash on connected devices. Moonlight could be an important tool for Microsoft to catch up in this space. Microsoft announced earlier this year that it’s going to bring Silverlight to the Xbox. It revealed in September that Silverlight 3 will eventually also be available for mobile phones running Moblin Linux, but the company declined to share any further plans for connected devices.

21 Responses to “Watch the Winter Olympics on Ubuntu: Silverlight 2 For Linux Is Here”

  1. The only reason microsoft is doing this is so they can profit off open source delevopers. I wouldnt have a problem with that if it wasnt for the fact they were holding out on us. I WANT TO WATCH NETFLICKS ON MY UBUNTU NETBOOK. Hell I pay for the subsciption, Who are they to tell me what OS I can run. If it wasnt for virtual box i would cancel my subscription.

  2. technoslick

    @Karl: Same here! I sent a piece of my mind to NBC for scorning Moonlight users from viewing Silverlight videos. Jerks. Is this MS-induced double-talk or NBC’s lack of simple Web design skills the culprit? Jerks.

  3. Peter Quirk

    I’m still waiting for a working 64-bit Flash plug-in for my browser. If Microsoft can deliver a cross-platform 32-bit/64-bit solution with a mobile implementation, more power to them. Adobe needs some competition.

  4. If I had to have silverlight as the only way to watch the olympics I would not watch them.

    microsoft just wants silverbright to be another flash so they can really lock people in.

    I won’t touch it with a ten foot pole and I have removed everything mono from my computer.

    screw microsoft they can have the olympics in redmond for all I care. knowing microsoft they would allow steroids.

  5. “De Icaza told me that Microsoft’s covenant only extends to PCs, and not to mobile phones or set-top boxes running Linux.”

    Of course that means that not only is Mono not free software, but of course, neither is MoonLight.

    You can try to make the stretch that it’s open source, but since anyone other than Novell that tries to use it and/or make money off it will almost certainly get a frivolous patent-related lawsuit filed against them by Microsoft.

    Ask Miguel how this is free and open source software when you’re staring down a bunch of wolves who would love nothing more than to sue your ass off. He won’t answer those questions, he never has.

  6. I might add that last year, they were using Silver Lie 1.0 for the 2008 games, and the MoonLight add-on from Novell wouldn’t work. What makes you think MoonLight 2 will be SilverBlight 2 capable?

  7. Hailed by Microsoft fanboys and Novell apologists everywhere, seeking to navigate Linux into legal dark waters, Silver Blight 2 is finally here. Oh happy day! :P

    So far the Mono infection has not managed to spread into KDE the same way it has throughout GNOME, perhaps because Novell is firing people left and right in order to make up for budget problems resulting from major customers leaving them as they get insulted on the was out through Novell’s PR press releases. (City of Los Angeles got quite a few raspberries from Microvell on their way off Suse and Groupwise.)

    How much longer will we have to put up with Microsoft crap encroaching on our desktops when the entire point of migrating to Linux was to stop having Digital Restriction Malware and Imaginary Property being shoved in our faces. (At least there’s not product activator that freaks out if you install more RAM or a new video card….)