WPF & Silverlight at risk from Microsoft's passion for HTML5
Friday, 10 September 2010

Is WPF dead? Is Silverlight dead? Will Microsoft embrace and assimilate HTML5? Rumours are all we have - but they are plausible rumours.


There is a story just surfaced that isn't based on much evidence but it seems to fit with other observations.

A Twitter exchange with former Silverlight Product Manager Scott Barnes reported by The Register makes the following claims.

There is in-fighting between Microsoft's Developer and Windows teams about the future of WPF, Silverlight and HTML5 as embodied in IE 9.

The basic idea is that HTML5 and fast Javascript can replace both WPF and Silverlight.


The status of WPF has long been a worry simply because of the threat from Silverlight. WPF was intended to become the API that was to create the next generation UI for Windows. However things didn't go well for Vista and Windows 7 hardly uses it - the notable exception being Visual Studio which does implement its UI with WPF. 

Then along came Silverlight - a cross platform implementation of a subset of WPF and the future of WPF looked even more in doubt. However WPF is a big and increasingly mature desktop UI Framework specifically targeting Windows - just the sort of thing you need to give Windows apps the edge over other systems so it seemed unthinkable that Microsoft would kill it.

Until now that is:

Right now there's a faction war inside Microsoft over HTML5 vs Silverlight. oh and WPF is dead.. i mean..it kind of was..but now.. funeral.

(Scott Barnes)


HTML5 is the replacement for WPF.. IE team want to fork the HTML5 spec by bolting on custom windows APi's via JS/HTML5

(Scott Barnes)


The idea is that HTML5 replaces WPF and probably Silverlight is technically crazy. To make HTML5 the equal of Silverlight's subset of WPF let alone the full WPF Framework would require so many bolt-ons that it would no longer be HTML5 let alone standard HTML5.

The issue of HTML5 replacing Silverlight which in turn replaces WPF isn't silly however. All that you would have to do is embed the Silverlight engine in IE9 and use  an extended HTML5 as the API.

Of course technical considerations don't figure highly in such decisions. We have all contributed to the HTML5 hype and it is this marketing opportunity that makes it so reasonable that Microsoft should embrace HTML5 and then make it its own. The Borg weren't the first to use assimilation as a strategy for domination.

Is there any truth in the rumours - because that's all they are at the moment?

It would explain the recent odd blog post by Silverlight team member Brad Becker in praise of Silverlight but not the central role that Silverlight is playing in Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft needs to make clear its intentions if it expects developers to follow it. Indecision now could lead to one of those paradigm changing events that we all look back on and wonder how it happened and why we didn't see it coming.

Further Reading

Mozilla's Games Lab Opens

Silverlight better than HTML5?


Introducing HTML 5




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