Can Open Source Catch Microsoft By The Horn?

by Hinesh Jethwani    Apr 29, 2004

How exactly do you stop a much awaited, overly hyped software release from the billion dollar Redmond giant Microsoft? The Open Source front has no definite strategy on how to catch the raging bull by its ’Longhorn’, but is closely following the “If you cant beat ’em, join ’em” mantra.

Microsoft’s Longhorn release is slated for 2006, and the Linux desktop segment is in the firing line to be gored in its tracks. With a gradually developing market, the acceptance of Linux at the desktop level is still relatively low, and the last thing that Linux vendors need is a new OS from Microsoft.

According to the minutes posted to the Gnome’s foundation mail site, Gnome Foundation and Mozilla leaders have had a meeting on April 21, to discuss how Longhorn’s advanced Avalon and XAML technologies pose a serious threat to the future of Open Source.

Miguel de Icaza, founder of Ximian and CTO for the Novell Ximian Services business unit, said, “What makes Longhorn dangerous for the viability of Linux on the desktop, is the fact that the combination of Microsoft deployment power, XAML, Avalon and .NET is killer. It is what Java wanted to do with the Web, but with the channel to deploy it and the lessons learned from Java mistakes.”

“The combination means that Longhorn apps get the web-like deployment benefits: develop centrally, deploy centrally, and safely access any content with your browser,” added Icaza.

Gnome co-founder Nat Friedman has suggested that open-source vendors look into the possibilities of cloning XAML, as well as possibly building an Avalon competitor consisting of open-source components. Strong contenders are GIMP-based GTK+, and the XML User Interface Language developed by Mozilla

Avalon is the code name for the presentation subsystem that Microsoft is building to be part of Longhorn. XAML is the Extensible Application Markup Language that is tightly integrated with Avalon and will be the primary vehicle for writing Avalon applications.

“We need to slow the upgrade to Longhorn, and since that is relatively costly to businesses, if we can make cross-platform applications work well, there is an opportunity for Linux migration,” Friedman said, according to the meeting notes.

Detailing the seriousness of the issue, Icaza said, “The time is short. Microsoft will ship Avalon in 2-3 years, and they got a preview of the technology out. I see two possible options. Either Implement Avalon/XAML and ship it with Linux, or come up with our own, competitive stack. I think someone will eventually implement Avalon (with or without the assistance of the Mono team), its just something that developers enjoy doing.

“If we choose to go in our own direction, there are certain strengths in open source that we should employ to get to market quickly: requirements, design guidelines, key people who could contribute, compatibility requirements and deployment platforms. We have been referring internally at Novell to the later approach as the Salvador platform (after a long debate about whether it should be called MiggyLon or Natalon). We do not know if and when we would staff such an effort but its on the radar,” concluded Icaza.

Tags: MS