Microsoft's Open Source Offensive...

Cofounder of Ximian (one of Novell’s recent acquisitions in the Open Source space) and one of the guys behind the Gnome project Miguel de Icaza was asked in a recent interview what the biggest threat to the Free/Open software movement was. His answer: Avalon.

“Microsoft realises today that Linux is competing for some of the green pastures that it’s been enjoying for so long; I think that Longhorn is a big attempt to take back what they owned before. Longhorn has kind of a scary technology called Avalon, which when compounded with another technology called XAML, it’s fairly dangerous. And the reason is that they’ve made it so it’s basically an HTML replacement. The advantage is it’s probably as easy as writing HTML, so that means that anybody can produce this content with a text editor.

It’s basically an HTML Next Generation. A lot more widgets, a lot more flexibility, more richer experience - way, way richer experience. You get basically the native client experience with Web- like deployments. So you develop these extremely rich applications but they can be deployed as easily as the Web is. It’s just like going to a URL: you go to Google, and you get the Web page and it works. So it’s the same deployment model but the user interface interaction is just fantastic.

Of course, the only drawback is that this new interaction is completely tied to .Net and WinFX. So we see that as a very big danger. A lot of people today cannot migrate to Linux or cannot migrate to Mozilla because a lot of their internal Web sites happen to use IE extensions. Now imagine a world where you can only use XAML.

It’s massive - I’m so scared.”

It’s nice to hear somone with such high visability in the Open Source arena referring to Microsoft as someone to fear not because they are inherently evil, but because they are creating an innovative platform that makes sense.

I’ve played a bit with the PDC bits (VisualStudio.NET and Longhorm) and have built a couple of XAML-based apps. It really is going to be a revolution in application development… but to hear this from de Icaza (who I respect) is excellent. Of course, I have no idea why he’s so concerned– if anything this is good for the Mono project (which attempts to make .NET available to Linux and the like.) There’s no reason they couldn’t integrate XAML and the rest of Avalon into Mono, unless I’m missing something.