Flash in the Pan

Editor's note: ZDNet Australia is running duelling perspectives on the Microsoft Searchlight vs. Adobe Flash debate.
Written by Scott-Bradley Pearce, Contributor

Editor's note: ZDNet Australia is running duelling perspectives on the Microsoft Searchlight vs. Adobe Flash debate. To find out why Builder AU editor Chris Duckett thinks it's lights out for Silverlight, click here.

commentary So Silverlight will kill Flash, will it? Maybe it will. A lot of people have told me this and I've begun to wonder if this opinion has any validity. It took me less than 15 minutes of research to determine that it may not kill Flash but it will most definitely do it some serious market damage. Why?

Let's look at some facts. First of all, developing in Flash requires a person with very specific skills in its own language, Actionscript. Second, those Actionscript programmers are few and far between (and I'm not talking about my cousin who did a weekend course and can move some graphics around). I'm talking about people who truly understand programming, logic and structure, and who can author a complete creative that talks to databases or immerses the user in a whole environment of content.

Looking at Silverlight, an important difference is it can be written using more common languages like C#, the .NET environment or even something like Ruby or Python. If you need to find programmers that know their way around these languages, you're going to have a much easier time than you will trying to find Actionscript programmers. So with Silverlight, the base of accessible developers has suddenly skyrocketed and a great many organisations will no longer need to hire specialist Flash resources.

The next thing that strikes me about Silverlight is that it will rely on an already massive developer resource in the Microsoft machine, MSDN, all the existing infrastructure and tools like MSSQL, and the deep experience in content streaming with Windows Media. I don't think I need to tell anyone how inefficient the Flash video codec is, often requiring double the bandwidth to achieve the same quality video as Windows Media. No matter which way you look at it, if you could halve your streaming video data costs you are already looking at a good deal.

To put it simply, the Silverlight juggernaut is just another display layer or front-end enhancement to an already massive developer toolset that is enabling a throng of existing developers worldwide to create Flash-like interfaces without having to learn the often quirky Flash-only language.

The final nail in the proverbial coffin for me is definitely tool sets. Even if the software giant's content creation and development tools aren't always the best things around, you can't say that Microsoft doesn't flood the development and content community with a bucket-load of tool kits and options to help them achieve their goals. These range from simple Web tools like Expression right through to complete integration suites like Visual Studio.

So the answer to the question: will Silverlight kill Flash? Given that we will be able to develop more engaging interfaces using existing, less costly developer resources, across multiple languages and available in many forms of development environment and toolsets, I suggest that Adobe had better have some magic beans or fairy dust in the cupboard to survive this fight.

For an opposing view of the Flash vs. Silverlight debate, see this story by Chris Duckett.

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