Silverlight is dead, long live Silverlight?
Sunday, 31 October 2010

Silverlight is for Windows Phone 7 development and HTML5 is the cross-platform environment of the future - so says Microsoft.


Microsoft's attitude towards the future of Silverlight and what it seems to see as an alternative, HTML5, is growing ever clearer since it was first raised in a series of tweets from Scot Barnes - despite the fact that the company seems to want to avoid talking about it. Indeed mention of the future of Silverlight was noticeably absent from this year's PDC. Last year Silverlight was the main talking point; this year HTML5 was mentioned at every opportunity.

Mary Jo Foley writing at ZDNet had something of a scoop to report when she asked Bob Muglia, the Microsoft President in charge of the company’s server and tools business, about the future of Silverlight:

“Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone” 

"Silverlight also has some “sweet spots” in media and line-of-business applications"

And on Silverlight's role as a cross-platform environment:

“our strategy has shifted".

"Silverlight will continue to be a cross-platform solution, working on a variety of operating system/browser platforms, going forward."

“But HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything, including (Apple’s) iOS platform,”

It is also reported that he offered assurance that Silverlight 5 would see the light of day.

Of course the irony of all of this is that Silverlight is heavily used on the PDC site to present sessions to the world. It clearly takes time to turn a mega ship to a new direction.

Although nothing is certain the most likely scenario for the future of Silverlight is that it will be presented as the programming environment for Windows Phone 7. For the web we will have HTML5 and on the desktop who knows...




Of course none of this makes a great deal of sense. Open standards are great but HTML5/CSS3 and Javascript just don't add up to the power of .NET/WPF/Silverlight. It just isn't the same ball game.

And where are the development tools? You can argue that open standards are better and that Silverlight never really got a hold on the web, but if you are looking for a powerful easy to use general purpose web application development environment it is still difficult to beat.

The future cannot lie in HTML5 and its associated technologies as they are currently being touted for the simple reason that they are still too primitive and limited. A step in the right direction, yes, but not a big enough step by any measure.You can make UIs that look like game interfaces using nothing but HTML and Javascript but it's hard work!

Silverlight may not be the huge success it was hoped for but swapping it for HTML5 and Javascript is like giving up a power tool for a stone axe.

Further reading

WPF & Silverlight at risk from Microsoft's passion for HTML5

Silverlight better than HTML5?


Introducing HTML 5

Books on Silverlight


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