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Silverlight Does Not Mean Full .Net Support

It was almost an afterthought announcement, but the news that Microsoft is making a portion of the .Net Framework's Common Language Runtime (CLR) available for Mac and Linux demonstrates the software giant's newfound willingness to loosen up.

Microsoft  formally announced Silverlight at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference last week and gave a big, flashy demo this week at Mix 2007.

Silverlight is a .Net 3.0 framework for building graphically-rich applications that is being touted as a Flash-killer. It has the CLR at its core, so in making it available for other platforms, Microsoft has essentially made the .Net Framework open to Macintosh and Linux.

But not so fast, coders. Windows Forms, used to build an application interface, won't be available, nor will Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Workflow Foundation, both of which are in .Net 3.0.

Thom Robbins, director of the .Net platform at Microsoft , told internetnews.com "what we really announced was a solution based on what our customers have been asking for around media streaming. We will wait to see what customers look to build on it before deciding what else to make available."

In its drive to keep Silverlight as small and as lightweight as possible and focus on building rich Internet applications, Microsoft left out things like COM  and Forms, which are used in standard application development. Hence, the cross-platform CLR doesn't automatically mean all .Net applications will run on non-Windows platforms.

There's another potential snag: .Net development means writing code in C#, and Microsoft has no plans to port its Visual Studio integrated development environment to other platforms. So anyone looking to utilize the framework on another platform will still need a Windows machine to do their development.

All that said, Robbins thinks there will be a lot of cross-platform development.

"I think the reason Silverlight becomes so important is with the ubiquity of the Internet, customers want to build rich Internet apps and don't want to have to do different things to make it run on a Mac or Linux box. We fully expect customers to take advantage of it," he said.

Silverlight 1.0 beta is available now, and Microsoft has released alpha version of Silverlight 1.1, which will include support for dynamic languages like Managed JScript and Python, an enhanced, two-way HTML/Ajax bridge and support for Microsoft's LINQ language.