Posts Tagged ‘Silverlight’

Silverlight bashing

January 28, 2011

Poor old Silverlight. Once upon a time, the application framework was one of the keys to writing rich internet applications and it was the darling of a strong development community.

But it’s been a tough 12 months-or-so for Silverlight. First, HTML5 started to look good – really good. Big providers have been queuing up to back the next generation web framework, knowing HTML5 offers key features that could help break an over-reliance on a series of web-browser plug-ins.

Further pain mid-year came when Apple CEO Steve Jobs laid into rival plug-in Adobe Flash, attacking the non-standardised nature of the framework and removing the capability for Flash to work on Apple’s leading devices such as the iPad and iPhone. Plug-ins, it seemed, were no longer the flavour of the month.

But there was still Microsoft, of course – they wouldn’t abandon their own framework. Not abandon, no – but mixed messages from Redmond towards the back-end of 2010 really didn’t help the cause of Silverlight.

First, Internet Explorer general manager Dean Hachamovitch suggested that the future of the web was HTML5. Then a few weeks later, Microsoft’s director of product management for developer platforms Brad Becker said the Silverlight framework actually extended the web by enabling scenarios that HTML does not cover.

So, what are these scenarios? Well, they’re actually pretty limited. Bob Muglia, the Microsoft president in charge of the company’s server and tools business, recently said Silverlight is the provider’s development platform for Windows Phone (see further reading, below).

Anything else, or is that it? Muglia stressed that Silverlight will also be important in specific areas, such as media. But when it comes to the big stuff – the cross-media development – then he believes that HTML5 offers the only true solution for everything.

That must be pretty tough for the legions of devoted Silverlight developers. And that rough feeling is only like to grow, as Silverlight increasingly becomes a niche platform for niche applications.

That type of specificity is simply a non-starter. The future of consumer and business interaction is the mobile. Businesses have to find ways to write once and deploy multiple times, rather than having to develop across several platforms for a broad range of operating systems and devices.

Plug-ins have a bad effect on the high quality web browsing experience. Users have to run applications before they can see content. In the worst – and increasingly large number – of cases, the plug-in might not even be compatible with the browser or device.

For individuals, the pain of plug-ins will be removed as HTML5 becomes the standard for web development. For Silverlight and its associated plug-in counterparts, the future looks grim.

Further reading

Microsoft wake up to smell the coffee

November 11, 2010

Another month, another confusing set of stories relating to Microsoft’s web framework Silverlight and the next generation mark-up language HTML5.

I wrote about the relationship previously, referring to Internet Explorer general manager Dean Hachamovitch’s suggestion that the future of the web is HTML5. More specifically, I questioned whether Microsoft’s support for HTML5 left Silverlight out in the cloud.

The answer for a few weeks, at least according to the team in Redmond, was at the centre of the next generation web. In a blog posting (see further reading, below), Microsoft’s director of product management for developer platforms Brad Becker stated that Microsoft remained committed to Silverlight – and that the framework extends the web by enabling scenarios that HTML does not cover.

That comment, in itself, was not surprising. HTML5 remains a work in progress, with developments on various platforms continuing to be developed. Silverlight, as Becker states in his own posting, is already installed on 600,000,000 desktops and devices.

But success is not just about numbers. Take the related area of mobile operating systems, where Symbian remains the leading mobile OS with about 40% of the market, according to analyst Gartner (see further reading).

Those figures, however, include the legacy of Nokia’s previous success. The smart phone market is leading to the ever-increasing growth – and inevitably the dominance – of Research in Motion, Apple and Android.

The same will be true in web development. Do not assume people will use a specific platform just because a provider has a ready-made user base. More to the point, Microsoft seems to be coming round to that way of thinking.

Bob Muglia, Microsoft’s head of servers and tools division, gave an interview at the company’s Professional Developers Conference and said that Silverlight was still “core” to Microsoft but the company was looking to other technologies to allow people to access online services (see further reading).

Muglia attempted to cool the situation in a blog posting (see further reading), suggesting his comment that the company’s Silverlight strategy had shifted was simply a comment on how the industry had changed. It was a suggestion that, rather then cool the situation, helped to add petrol to an already well-stoked fire.

Developers rounded on Muglia, posting comments on his blog which suggested they felt hurt and that Silverlight’s reputation had been left damaged: “The effort needed to restore our confidence in Silverlight is tantamount to unringing a bell,” suggested one poster.

HTML5 is a work in progress, but its progress is also startling. Non-believers – even at Microsoft’s Redmond HQ – are beginning to wake up and smell the coffee. Confusion reigns but sense, and HTML5, will win out in the end. Now somebody needs to pass the coffee cup to Adobe !

Further reading:

Apple vs Adobe: Round two could herald the knockout blow

October 18, 2010

Seconds out, round one! Once the best of friends, technology giants Apple and Adobe have more recently been involved in a fistfight that would do the heavyweight boxing division proud.

 In the red corner, Apple – an experienced but innovative slugger that is now worth more in market capital terms than software behemoth Microsoft. From the desktop to the pocket, Apple has become the consumer – and increasingly, enterprise – product of choice.

 In the blue corner, Adobe – another innovative firm, famed for its multimedia software and rich internet application development tools, such as Flash. And it is the last area that has caused consternation with Apple.

 At times, the heavyweight battle can look more like a schoolyard scrap. In a recent note (see further reading, below), Apple chief executive Steve Jobs made much of the former pals’ friendship.

 “Apple has a long relationship with Adobe. In fact, we met Adobe’s founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their first big customer,” starts Jobs’ open letter, before taking a swipe at Adobe’s technical troubles.

 Jobs suggests Flash is poorly designed, has security concerns and is ill equipped for the mobile age (see further reading). Apple banned Flash from its iPhone in 2007 and its iPad in 2010, restricting the use of the third party tool for developers.

 For its part, Adobe has issued a staunch defence, concentrating on the inherent openness and innovation of the internet. Adobe co-founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock suggest that Apple’s restrictionscould undermine this next chapter of the web” (see further reading).

 Which is a big claim, but are they right? Flash is undoubtedly a popular web development mechanism. However, its attractiveness will undoubtedly be affected by Apple’s decision to restrict the use of Flash, especially as the iPhone and iPad are the devices of the moment.

 There are, of course, other web development platform options. Jobs’ letter refers to open standards, such as CSS and JavaScript. He draws particular attention to HTML5, which he says is the new web standard, a standard that means web developers do not have to rely on third party plug-ins.

 Currently under-development, HTML5 already boats some big backers and impressive features, such as drag-and-drop and – most crucially, in terms of the ongoing status of Adobe Flash – video playback.

 Round two of the fight is only just beginning but the combined power of Apple allied to the inevitable success of HTML5 could land a knock out blow on Flash.

Further reading