Microsoft: Silverlight still has a future in an HTML 5 world

Should Web developers target Internet Explorer 9 or Silverlight when creating new Web and mobile applications? One Microsoft exec takes a new stab at an answer.

At Microsoft's Mix '10 conference in March, where Microsoft took the wraps off its HTML 5 vision for Internet Explorer 9, there were a lot of questions about the future for Silverlight.

Six months later -- and one new version of Silverlight (version 4, released in April) later, those questions still persist. Should Web developers target Internet Explorer 9 or Silverlight when creating new Web and mobile applications?

Microsoft hasn't issued any kind of white paper or definitive guidance. The official IE executive positioning has been HTML 5 is the future of the Web -- but Silverlight's not dead (yet). This week, however, the Silverlight team finally stepped up to the plate to defend the future of that platform.

Brad Becker, Director of Product Management, Developer Platforms, took the bull by the horns with a post entitled "The Future of Silverlight" on the Silverlight Team Blog. Becker repeated the party line that HTML 5 is nowhere near done and is a standard in flux. But he also made the case that Silverlight is the right solution for developers looking to create premium media content, as well as content/apps that can run on multiple platforms.

There is still confusion/overlap around business/enterprise apps and consumer apps. Should a Microsoft-centric developer target IE or Silverlight in those cases? Becker's answer seems to be that it's up to programmers and they should go with the platform to which they're most comfortable coding.

I'm hoping Microsoft is prepping some kind of more definitive guidance for developers as to when to target Silverlight vs. when to target IE/HTML 5. (Given how often I'm asked by developers what Microsoft's stance is here, I bet a white paper or cheat sheet would be welcome.) Maybe once the Softies are ready to talk about Silverlight 5 Microsoft will have figured out its own positioning and politics...

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