Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

Summary: So what's a developer to make of Microsoft's messaging (or lack thereof) about Silverlight at its premiere developer conference?

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At Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) this week, the future of Silverlight is one topic that has gotten short shrift. There have been no sessions about Silverlight 5 and only one mention of Silverlight in the kick-off keynote.

But there were plenty of mentions of HTML 5 and Microsoft's commitment to that technology, not only in the next version of its Internet Explorer browser, but also as the glue "facilitating a level of independence and innovation between the back end and the front end" (as CEO Steve Ballmer said during an October 28 keynote address at the PDC).

So what's a developer to make of Microsoft's messaging (or lack thereof) about Silverlight at its premiere developer conference?

I asked Bob Muglia, the Microsoft President in charge of the company's server and tools business, that very question and got what I consider to be the clearest answer yet about how Microsoft is evolving its Silverlight strategy.

"Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone," he said. Silverlight also has some "sweet spots" in media and line-of-business applications, he said.

But when it comes to touting Silverlight as Microsoft's vehicle for delivering a cross-platform runtime, "our strategy has shifted," Muglia told me.

Silverlight will continue to be a cross-platform solution, working on a variety of operating system/browser platforms, going forward, he said. "But HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything, including (Apple's) iOS platform," Muglia said.

Muglia said there definitely will be another version of Silverlight, and that it will be "very much in line," in terms of functionality and features, as Silverlight 4, which Microsoft delivered in April of this year.

Muglia didn't share any kind of timetable as to when Silverlight 5 might make its debut. He did note that the delivery pace of Silverlight is slowing. "As with anything as it matures, the (delivery) cadence changes," he said.

When Microsoft first showed off Internet Explorer 9, its most HTML 5 compliant version of IE to date, in March of this year, questions began to arise about the company's commitment to Silverlight. Officials insisted that the two would coexist and that Silverlight would be Microsoft's cross-platform development platform for mobile, Web and PC platforms for a number of years to come, as HTML 5 was far from becoming an accepted standard.

But in the past few months, Microsoft's backing of HTML 5 has gotten more aggressive. Microsoft is pushing HTML 5 as the way developers can make their Web sites look more like apps. ("HTML5 enables you to make engaging and interactive sites. With full hardware acceleration of the browser, HTML5 pages feel and run like an app or a game," said IE chief Dean Hachamovitch during the opening PDC keynote yesterday.)

I'm guessing we'll hear something about Silverlight 5 by the time of Microsoft's Mix '11 conference in the  spring of 2011. Until then, where do you want it to see Silverlight go tomorrow?

Topics: CXO, Microsoft, Software Development

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

    I thought it was interesting in the demo of IE9 that much was made of how IE9 makes more use of the PC to run HTML5 apps very smoothly. That's great for touting IE9 but it makes me, as a web developer, somewhat reluctant to build a rich internet application on HTML5 if I can see that there will be massive performance differences between say IE9, Chrome, Safari and Firefox.<br><br>Runtimes like Silverlight and Flash do a least provide some means to estimate the *likely* performance of apps when deployed across different hardware.<br><br>It is true that Microsoft have found a home for Silverlight as the (near) default platform for Windows Phone apps but don't forget that much of Silverlight is based on WPF which, if you attend developer workshops for Windows 7 development, is seen as a preferred platform for client development.

    Update: This is quite an interesting discussion: http://channel9.msdn.com/Shows/SilverlightTV/Silverlight-TV-50-The-State-of-Silverlight-with-Scott-Guthrie
    spc1972
    • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

      @spc1972 There shouldn't be a significant cross-browser gap in 2D rendering performance by the time IE9 is released. Chrome 7 has already been released with GPU-driven 2D acceleration, and Firefox 4's latest betas support it as well.
      Encosia
      • Chrome/FF/safari all have very very lame gpu support

        they wont be anywhere near IE when it ships. It will be a year or more af.ter..
        Johnny Vegas
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        @Johnny IE9 is definitely very fast on those demos written specifically for IE9. However, Firefox 4 Beta 6 runs the fish tank demo almost as well, and Chrome 7 stable runs the boat demo at 40fps on my machine.

        Conversely, Chrome 7 (the currently released version, not a beta) runs this demo[1] 50% faster than this week's new IE9 Developer Preview on my machine. Firefox 4 Beta 6 runs it at the same speed as IE9.

        Benchmarks are a sloppy business; they always have been. However, at this rate of innovation from all three, we shouldn't be seeing the "massive performance differences" that spc1972 is worried about.

        [1] http://themaninblue.com/experiment/AnimationBenchmark/canvas/?particles=1000
        Encosia
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        @Encosia The reports of Silverlight?s death have been greatly exaggerated http://goo.gl/o5wB
        anthony_franco
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        Microsoft similar opportunity in quantitative and qualitative terms anytime soon. It will have to continue to buy up smaller quantities of patents from failed startups and similar kinds of sellers. Those entities typically don?t sell patents that read on a technology as essential as LTE
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      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        But Microsoft officials believe Office 365 will be more resilient than BPOS for a number of reasons
        Linux Love
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        especially because of changes that Microsoft is making to the Exchange Online component of the cloud platform.
        Linux Love
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        Many of the issues around BPOS? downtime were due to Exchange Online, acknowledged Eron Kelly
        Linux Love
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        wasn?t built from the ground up to be a multitenant platform. But Exchange 2010 is the core of the
        Linux Love
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        Exchange Online pillar in Office 365, and it was designed ?from the get-go as multitenant,? Kelly said
        Linux Love
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        during an interview at Microsoft?s June 28 Office 365 launch in New York.
        Linux Love
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        Microsoft has been testing its hosted Exchange platform ?at very high scale? as part of its
        Linux Love
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        @Encosia Modern user-friendly Linux distros have Windows executables set to open with WINE by default, have no root account by default, check for new updates automatically, and let you do everything within the GUI.
        Arabalar
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

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      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        It certainly makes sense to slow down the development cycle a little bit. They've done a lot in very little time. Now they can afford to take more time to really nail down the platform.
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        Amanda123456
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        @Encosia
        Firefox 4's latest betas support it as well.

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    • H5/Javascript will make MSFT a loser

      One cannot compose a lot good, large scale apps using Javascript or any dynamic programming languages. Doesn't matter how much reach it has, Javascript is still INADEQUATE every time your app requires more than 10,000 lines of code. Its tendency to introduce runtime errors, lack of tooling support and sluggish performance all become headache in a real world software development cycle.
      LBiege
      • sure

        @LBiege
        I mean Javascript is useful to a certain extent, mostly handling DOM objects & events. But for the back end you must work with Python, even Php (remember: Google, the most powerful & advanced platform is Python everywhere; try to do that with Php; now just as an exercice, how much of MS current web structure/properties are using NOW Silverlight?).
        Anyhow, silverlight may be right for some hobbyst, the same kind of people that were using Front Page to build "profesional sites". But if I want eye candy & wow factor I will use Flex/Flash, with a market penetration of 99%.
        I feel sorry about all those poor MS developers that invested learning Silverlight: time to learn something new!
        theo_durcan
      • RE: Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted

        @theo_durcan

        Talking about eye candy, where is your deep zoom in Flash / Flex. hohoho. Now who's gonna learn sth new? Not us .Net developers that already have it.
        LBiege