The Silverlight player has finally reached the Linux platform with the release of Moonlight, an open source implementation of Silverlight 1.0 for Unix based platforms. The release has the full blessing of Microsoft and marks a serious milestone for cross platform adoption of Microsoft's Flash competitor. A Silverlight 2.0 version is also in the works
Back in 2007 Novell had already been working on the open source Moonlight runtime, with informal advice being shared between the Microsoft team. Instead of pursuing their own implementation, Microsoft instead announced a formal partnership with Novell, opening up the full test suites Microsoft used in house along with detailed specifications.
The partnership has meant that the player includes a wide-ranging media pack featuring codecs that Microsoft have already licensed from major media companies, and according to project leader Miguel de Icaza, "now have one of the best open source media pipelines implemented".
At the time they were aiming for support with FireFox, Konquerer and Opera, but this final release targets FireFox only - perhaps a sign of the inroads FireFox has made in that time - and supports all the major Linux distributions including openSUSE, SUSE Linux Enterprise, Fedora, Red Hat, and Ubuntu.
Meanwhile Adobe's CFO Mark Garret has caused a minor storm by claiming, when asked about the competition Silverlight offered, said "we're innovating ahead of them, and they have not been able to catch up" and that the push to adoption "has really fizzled out", whilst mentioning the 100-million downloads of Adobe's AIR platform. Tim Sneath from Microsoft responded saying Garrett's comments makes him appear as if he's "living in a fantasy world", mentioning the growing (but still small) number of Silverlight 2 adopters such as CNN's The Moment, a Photosynth-based 3D browsing engine for Obama's Inauguration.
In reality, Silverlight does appear to be closing the gap in terms of feature set, but still has a long way to go before reaching the same ubiquity that Adobe Flash Player has.