Alistair Croll has a post up about his impressions of MIX and talks a bit about Microsoft's "three front war". In general, it's a pretty good post that encompasses everything Microsoft is doing. And I think it's very interesting just how deeply the RIA space is running through Microsoft. It's part of their devices, it's part of their core software, it's part of their continuing enterprise aspirations and it's part of their general purpose web stuff. Microsoft has always been able to provide very powerful experiences and now they're looking at ways to provide a well-designed, powerful experience across their properties. Also, thanks to Kendall Whitehouse for the pictures.
And with that context, now is a good time to go back and look at MIX from my RIA perspective. I think coming out of MIX there are three main themes; the progress of Silverlight, video, and mobile devices. The first thing that's impressive when you step back and look at it is how far along Silverlight has come in a relatively short period of time. If we consider Flash the standard, Silverlight has gained a ton of ground feature-wise in the past year. So it's clear there is a lot of talent and drive on the team. What interests me most as an Adobe employee is to see where that goes now that we're closer to feature parity. Will Silverlight and Flash actually diverge as the companies move in different directions with different goals?
One example of this was the incredible amount of video on display at MIX. Because of the video-centric focus on Silverlight 1.0, that wasn't too surprising but if you step back it wasn't so much about video as it was about the infrastructure behind video. Microsoft has talked a lot about this being the last "format" war for digital media because content will be streamed instead of put on physical media. The video announcements and features at MIX - things like adaptive streaming - are a good example of Microsoft laying the groundwork for next generation, high quality content on the web. And Silverlight provides a pretty good engine.
The last part was mobile and this also plays to the video story. We didn't see any video on Silverlight mobile in the keynote at MIX but you'd have to assume it's coming. Microsoft has a very big mobile ecosystem with things like Windows Mobile on devices but also the Zune. Could you someday build Zune applications with Silverlight? That would be a pretty compelling platform for developers weighing the Apple stack versus the Microsoft stack. Then when you think about all of the tie-ins with XNA and how those might interop down the road it gets even more interesting.
Maybe it's because I'm at SXSW so I'm getting touchy-feely but after thinking about it and digesting it for a couple of days I'm beginning to wonder if the Adobe/Microsft stuff is overblown. Clearly we're going to compete for designers, always a hot topic, and the development platform battle is in full swing, but neither one of these two platforms is going away any time soon. Flash isn't dying and Silverlight won't be either, especially in the context of Microsoft's wider ecosystem. So while clearly there is a lot at stake, Microsoft has a lot of competitors in this world and Silverlight seems to play a big part in all of those arenas.