Microsoft and Novell bring Silverlight to Linux

I recently visited a local radio station hear the Mariners game) and the web site required Microsoft Silverlight to be installed for streaming audio.  It also noted that Silverlight was available for Apple OS X, Windows, and Linux.  Say that again?  Microsoft making multi-platform software?  Giving customers choice?  It sounds crazy, but it’s absolutely true.  Sorta, they are releasing the Linux version via an ‘Agreement not sue’ for downstream Novell customers.

The project is called, ‘Moonlight’.  When I went to download Silverlight from Microsofts website I was redirected to the Moonlight front page.  Moonlight is a part of the mono project.  The mono project is the Open Source version of ‘Active X’ sponored by Novell.  Microsoft has a sizable investment and co-marketing agreement with Novell, of whom is the distributor of SUSE Linux.

What is stange is that Microsoft doesn’t give an explicit agreement or license to use it’s ‘silverlight’ technology, instead it posted a covenant not to sue customers of Novell.  I’m not a lawyer but this seems odd to me.  Not to mention, that nobody really uses SUSE or Novell Linux; at least in terms of users and worker bee’s.

Here is a quote from ‘Covenant to Downstream Recipients of Moonlight – Microsoft & Novell Interoperability Collaboration’:

Microsoft, on behalf of itself and its Subsidiaries, hereby covenants not to sue Downstream Recipients of Novell and its Subsidiaries for infringement under Necessary Claims of Microsoft on account of such Downstream Recipients’ use of Moonlight Implementations to the extent originally provided by Novell during the Term and, if applicable, the Extension or Post-Extension Period, but only to the extent such Moonlight Implementations are used to provide Plug-In Functionality.

I found this interesting to:

Microsoft is not bound by, nor grants any rights under, any third party licenses with respect to the Moonlight Implementation (e.g., any versions of the General Public License)

It’s a bit paranoid, but Microsoft has alluded to this in the past; that Intellectual property and copy written material is becoming(or in danger of) infringement by incidental, accidental, or intentional means via inter-operability with Open Source software.  Is anyone seriously worried that Windows would become Public Domain because .wmv files can play on Linux?  Or because outsiders could might one day, scrutinize Windows source code freely?  I doubt it, in my opinion this ‘line’ is to scare ISV’s from supporting Linux and protecting it’s Windows/Office monopoly. This agreement however,  might be that first baby step toward a Open Source friendly Microsoft.

I easily installed Moonlight from Firefox.  First I downloaded the plugin from from

Moonlight Project Page

Moonlight Project Page

A pop-up box should appear on the screen allowing you to install as a firefox plugin.  Remember that you have to enable pop-up’s to install this.

moonlight install

moonlight install

After it is installed you will be prompted to accept an end-user license agreement from Microsoft to use it’s technology with Novel Moonlight.  So it is not as open source as I thought it was.  This could be because of the streaming media codec.  At least Microsoft is releasing cross-platform frameworks…  It’s a start.

Once it was installed I was able to view Microsoft Silverlight content and streaming media.  I found the installation was easy and the clarity of the streaming audio to be of high quality.


  • Miguel de Icaza


    A clarification: “Downstream recipients” is anyone that download Moonlight from the website. This is not limited to customers.

    Our collaboration agreement explicitly states that in exchange for all the test suites and codecs that we receive from them, we agree to support the major three distributions at the time of shipping (we do support and test more though).


    Comment | May 19, 2009
  • Miguel de Icaza

    A second clarification.

    The problem with Media Codecs and the second EULA you had to accept is not because of either Microsoft or Novell, but because most codecs today get patent licenses today from MPEG-LA.

    Although there are open source implementations of those codecs (ffmpeg for example) the problem is that the license requires that any rights obtained from MPEGLA be redistributed. And this means that someone would have to pay a universal license fee for everyone.

    You will see a similar notice on every program that licenses H.264, VC-1, WMV and a handful of others.

    Comment | May 19, 2009
  • mattb

    SUSE counts as a “major” distribution? LOL just kidding, I’m just glad to see some collaboration! Makes it easier on the rest of us that are increasingly working in a more diverse OS enviroment. Since Microsoft makes most of it’s money on Microsoft Office someone in Redmond may have the brainstorm to produce their products for Linux.

    This way inevitable market share losses in the Windows division will be offset by gaining new customers that run OS X and Linux desktop machines. In fact, it would not surprise me terribly if some day Microsoft comes full circle and buys Novell to release their own Linux sever platform. After all, protecting market share should not come in the way of profit. In the age of the Internet it is “mind share” that rules.

    Thank you for clarifying about “Downstream recipients” and codec EULA’s. Please, please keep reading my blog, it’s how I pay for cat food! 🙂

    Comment | May 20, 2009
  • Miguel de Icaza

    I will happily click on a handful of links for the cat food.

    That being said, perhaps you could update your post with the information that I have provided?

    Comment | May 21, 2009
  • mattb

    Isn’t that what the comments are for…? I’m fairly new to blogging. Do you think I should modify this post or create a new one with the updated information?

    Comment | May 21, 2009

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