Digging into the Silverlight 2 announcement

(Update: It also looks like you can grab the final bits as of 12:01 this morning: http://www.microsoft.

(Update: It also looks like you can grab the final bits as of 12:01 this morning: http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/resources/install.aspx?v=2.0)

After listening to the Q&A from the press conference today (recording here), digging into some of the details, and reading some of the commentary on various blogs, there are a few things that I don't quite understand about the announcement today. I think part of this is because there wasn't a whole lot of new news from the announcement and it was more of a direction announcement than anything. Of course, I work for Adobe, so I look at the world differently. The end result is that it's great Silverlight 2 is finally out in the wild. As an RIA enthusiast and an Adobe employee I've witnessed that Adobe does its most innovative work when both our community and our competitors push us. But there are a few things that struck me as odd from the release.

The 1 in 4 Number
Scott Guthrie said that "already one in four consumers worldwide has access to a computer with Silverlight already installed" but I'm not quite sure what that number means. Ben Romano from the Seattle Times noticed it too and it seems like an odd metric to use. The numbers game is a little bit bogus everywhere because there are so many ways to measure things: downloads, penetration, etc. The other numbers show that Silverlight is gaining traction, but it's hard for developers to do a direct penetration comparison with Flash right now.

In the Q&A, Tim Anderson asked about Linux support. Right now Silverlight has partial support for 1.0 (though it doesn't include video or MP3 playback, two of the main features of Silverlight 1.0) and there is no support for 2 on Linux right now. As Tim notes, it's misleading to tout the cross platform aspect of Silverlight without an actual release. It's also surprising that there was absolutely nothing in terms of a roadmap for Linux. My hunch is that they wanted something to announce for PDC and this may be it. As Brian Goldfarb mentioned in the Q&A session, Miguel de Icaza, who runs the Moonlight effort, has a session at PDC although his session doesn't say anything about Silverlight/Moonlight so I'm not sure what to make of that.

Eclipse Support
This is the one I was most bummed about. The announcement about Eclipse support for Silverlight is a big deal. As a Mac developer I've been waiting for a way to build Silverlight apps on my Mac (what better way to scope out the competition than to start building apps on their platform). But the release of Eclipse4sl is currently Windows only with support coming from others "soon". I agree that it makes sense for Microsoft to woo developers outside the Microsoft ecosystem, but why use Eclipse on Windows when you have Visual Studio? Ask any developer and they will tell you Visual Studio is basically a gold standard for IDEs. Even more, as part of the press release they announced that Silverlight support extends to Visual Studio 2008 Express, the free version of Visual Studio. So if I can use the free version of arguably the best IDE out there to create Silverlight 2 apps, why do I want to use Eclipse? Hopefully "soon" really does mean soon for Eclipse Silverlight support on the Mac.

The other parts of the announcement are significant. Opening up the components is great, especially considering the gigantic ecosystem of Microsoft developers out there. Nick Hoover asked about Silverlight inside Microsoft and the response was that over 100 campaigns had been run with Silverlight. Most of these seem to be very video centric, but I can only assume more actual applications will be coming from the world's largest software maker.

Now that Silverlight 2 is out, the RIA battle heats up more. As I mentioned above, that's a good thing for me or anyone who wants to watch Adobe and Microsoft add features and functionality. I'm looking forward to being able to start talking about Silverlight 3 and Flash Player 11 soon.