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Microsoft piles on tools for Silverlight in Adobe rivalry

At Mix '07 conference, Microsoft lays out its tool strategy for rich Internet applications.

Tapping into its deep development tool experience, Microsoft has shown how it intends to duel Adobe and others in an ongoing rich Internet applications race.

At the Mix '07 conference, Microsoft announced that .Net languages can now be used to write applications for Silverlight, a cross-platform browser plug-in that it's offering as an alternative to Adobe's Flash.

Microsoft also announced the Dynamic Languages Runtime, an extension to the .Net Framework that enables people to use dynamic, or scripting, languages to write Silverlight or Windows applications.

Microsoft is making the source code for the Dynamic Languages Runtime available under its Permissive License, which allows for commercial distribution and modifications to the code without having to pay royalties to Microsoft.

By opening the number of languages, Microsoft makes Silverlight friendly to a large number of developers, notably the millions of people familiar with .Net languages like C# and Basic.

Right now, Adobe's Flex development tool works with ActionScript, a JavaScript compatible language.

That comprehensive tool strategy, in addition to better video fidelity and more efficient streaming than Flash, differentiates Microsoft, said S. Somasegar, vice president of Microsoft's tool division.

"Because the .Net programming model is much richer, people can do applications much easier and the capabilities are going to be more broad-ranging," he said.

At Mix, Microsoft demonstrated Silverlight applications and tools working on both Windows and Mac, which will be included in the 1.0 version set for release this summer.

The next place to bring the Silverlight runtime is mobile devices, Somesegar said, something that Microsoft also demonstrated at Mix. Windows Mobile already runs the .Net Compact Framework, which can be extended to run Silverlight applications, he noted.

"Linux (Silverlight support) is a lower priority than devices," he said.

One place that Silverlight applications will not go is outside the browser, Somesegar said.

Adobe's Apollo is a "player" that allows Web applications to run on a desktop machine. But Microsoft doesn't intend to take that approach, at least for now, Somasegar said.

Also, on Monday, Forest Key, Microsoft's director of product management in Microsoft's Server and Tools Division, said that Microsoft expects to bring Silverlight to the Opera browser.