I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Silverlight and Linux

Ghostvirus takes offense to my statement that I can’t blame Microsoft for ignoring Linux support with Silverlight, saying: “They’re ignoring Linux because they want to popularize a Windows-centric software platform. The only reason MS supports Mac OS at all is to stave off accusations of being a monopoly. This is nothing new.”

They do want to popularize the Windows platform, and most of the time, Microsoft is able to pretend like other operating systems don’t exist. (That’s why they didn’t even bother trying to allow Mac and Linux users to use the Zune.)

But the web is different. Nobody uses ActiveX in websites because it’s only available in Internet Explorer on Windows. You can ignore Firefox and Mac users when you’re making desktop software, but you can’t ignore them on the web - especially since so many web developers are Mac users, and Silverlight will only succeed if it wins over developers.

It’s not about avoiding antitrust claims - it’s about giving their product a chance. And it’s a big effort: they’ve had to port a big chunk of the .NET CLR to OS X to make this possible.

Why would they support Linux? While it’s great on servers, hardly anyone uses it as a desktop OS. It would be a huge amount of work, and they’d only gain access to an audience that already hates Microsoft products. How likely do you think it would be that any desktop Linux users would install a closed-source Microsoft binary?

They don’t support Linux for the same reason they don’t support Opera, Camino, or even Internet Explorer 5: there’s just not enough of a potential audience to make their efforts worthwhile.