Silverlight in more detail

by Jesse Liberty

Now that I'm back from Mix, let me try to be slightly more coherent in my writing about Silverlight and why I believe it is so significant.

Before I begin, let me say in the interest of full disclosure, that Microsoft paid for my trip to Mix.

In the keynote, and in many of the breakout sessions, Microsoft demonstrated both Silverlight 1.0 (currently in Beta, due out this summer) and Silverlight 1.1 (currently in alpha, no release date announced).

As I see it, Microsoft's strategy seems to be to release a product that creates media for cross-platform delivery through a browser as their initial offering (the inevitable comparison was to Flash). If this were all they were doing it would be interesting (allowing .net developers to achieve this functionality without learning how to work with Flash) but certainly not revolutionary.

In 1.1 however they add much of the CLR, the ability to program to Silverlight in managed code (e.g., , C# 3 and VB9) and much of WPF (read forms, text, etc.). This is big news, and the demos shown were very impressive. The obvious comparison again is to Flex, putting ORCAS / Visual Studio in a position to compete with Apollo and that was the big buzz.

Microsoft was eager to show that they have a designer product as well (see http://www.microsoft.com/expression/products/overview.aspx?key=blend) but I won't even touch the question of the relative maturity or capabilities of that product vs. what Adobe offers, and never underestimate the ability for the landscape to change in a year in any case.

All of this is Interesting, intriguing but not revolutionary. And, admittedly, that was all they said. Now, let us speculate together.

8 Comments

Kent Quirk
2007-05-03 18:18:51
Ok, just for fun, the skeptic in me says that MS could easily have just as much interest in supporting Mac as they have for the Mac versions of their various applications -- which is to say that they support it just well enough to say they support it, but not well enough that it works just as well as it does on other platforms. It's especially frustrating when they support it once, but then rev the platform often and make sure that the non-Windows versions are always supported a bit later and and a bit buggier than on Windows. It doesn't even have to be malicious -- they just have to care less. And similarly, Linux support is likely to be halfhearted at best, or they may just rely on letting the open source community build a compatible player.


SOME handheld devices may make sense, as long as they have the computing power to support the platform. But it's really easy to get into the Java ghetto of write once, debug everywhere, so I'll withhold judgement on that.


Everything I've read says that Silverlight looks like a pretty credible platform for web app development. But the question is not whether MS can build a good technology, it's whether I as a developer can trust them to support it long enough, everywhere I want it to be, to make it successful. MS has a long history of not sticking with technologies. Can I count on MS to stay with the platform, or is this another flash in the pan (so to speak)?

Jonathan Dodds
2007-05-03 19:17:47
It's my undserstanding that Silverlight is a browser plugin (like Flash). Are there plans for a stand-alone Silverlight runtime?
Robert
2007-05-04 06:04:37
When can I develop with it on OSX "fully"?
Jesse
2007-05-04 09:01:49
Kent,


My understanding is that Silverlight is, by its nature, a web-delivered platform. I don't know of any plans, but then, I wouldn't know beyond what has been announced to date.

Chi
2007-05-13 20:07:15
Seem like Ajax will be a thing of the past, the future would be Flex, Silverlight, Java FX, what do you think?
Byron
2007-05-22 17:18:05
As a Windows Forms C# Programmer, I'm very interested in making the jump to Silverlight to make desktop-like apps on the web. But while learning some WPF, I realized that WPF and probably Silverlight don't have any support for databinding and datagrids. Since I use those 2 components heavily, for the apps I make for my employers, I think I'm gonna put those plans on hold until Silverlight gets a little bit more mature, maybe when there is a version 2.0.


I'm still interested in web development so for the time being I'm gonna study some Flex integrated with C# which will serve my needs.

Jesse
2007-05-22 18:18:25
Byron,


WPF certainly has data-binding, and you can create data grids and all sorts of sophisticated data display. WPF is a very fully developed development environment.


Silverlight 1.1 will let you use CLR and managed code (C#) and will contain a powerful subset of WPF functionality. I'm sure that someone will eventually put Silverlight and Flex head to head, but I would not assume that Flex is the obvious winner or loser in that comparison.


Byron
2007-05-22 20:19:41
Whoops, my mind must of slipped. I meant to say Silverlight doesn't support databinding as of now (I thought since Silverlight is a subset of WPF, then WPF would have had the same limitation).


Well thanks for the heads up, and I'm currently playing around with the Microsoft Expression Blend trial right now and I have a much more easier time learning about XAML with it. I'm having a harder remembering Actionscript and Flex keywords with my recent experimentation with Flexbuilder. So I guess, I will continue to research about Silverlight and will pass up Flex for the time being.