Microsoft: No Silverlight 5 release in November

Microsoft didn't make its own deadline of releasing to the Web version 5 of Silverlight. And there's still no word as to when and if the Softies will talk about the platform's future.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft officials said earlier this fall that the gold version of Silverlight 5 would be released to the Web (RTW) in November 2011. It's the last day of the month, but there's no RTW happening today.

Silverlight 5 is the most recent version of Microsoft's browser plug-in and Web, desktop and mobile development platform. It will sport 40 new features, including general performance enhancements, rich-media additions and enterprise-app-specific updates.

In an October 26 Webcast with the Linked.Net user group, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and former head of the Silverlight team Scott Guthrie said that Silverlight 5 would ship “next month,” meaning November. Based on e-mail exchanges I've had, it seemed that as of last week a Silverlight 5 RTW before month's end was still the plan.

But on November 30, I asked Microsoft yet again for more specifics on Silverlight's shifting future and was told by a spokesperson Silverlight 5 still isn't finalized. The spokesperson said officials would have more to say about Silverlight 5 in "the coming weeks," as Microsoft still intends to ship version 5. The spokesperson didn't answer my question as to whether Microsoft also would be talking about Silverlight's future at that time.

Silverlight developers have been hoping that the Softies would use the Silverlight 5 delivery milestone to come clean on what Microsoft plans for Silverlight in the future. As I've blogged, I've heard from various Microsoft partners and customers that Microsoft execs have been telling them privately that Silverlight 5 is the last major release of Microsoft's rich-media platform. (A couple of my contacts said there might be a Silverlight 5.1 in the pipeline, but nothing beyond that.)

I've also heard from a number of my contacts that Microsoft is not holding a Mix conference in 2012. Silverlight has been a big focal point for the past six Mix conferences. Microsoft officials declined to say whether there will or won't be a Mix 2012 show this year, when I asked.

Given that Microsoft arch-rival Adobe recently acknowledged publicly that its strategy with Flash had changed and that there would be no more mobile-browser Flash plug-in releases, I've been hoping and expecting that Microsoft execs might also be willing to explain -- clearly and concisely -- what they plan to do with Silverlight.

As Adobe's acknowledgement made evident, there are nuances in the niche targeted by Microsoft and Adobe with Silverlight and Flash. Adobe isn't dropping Flash entirely in favor of HTML5; it is continuing to deliver Flash versions for PCs and it will continue to enable developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for the major app stores. Adobe also is donating the Flex codebase to the Apache Foundation.

Perhaps Microsoft is planning a similar course with Silverlight: Abandon mobile-browser plug-in versions of Silverlight but continue to support Silverlight as a platform for mobile apps and line-of-business apps? (One thing we do know: Microsoft isn't planning to donate anything Silverlight-related to the Apache Foundation. I asked and a spokesperson said no.)

We also know that Microsoft is pushing HTML5/JavaScript/CSS as its favored, but not exclusive, way to develop Windows 8 apps. All may not be lost for those with Silverlight skills, however. WinRT -- the replacement for Win32 for Metro-style apps -- overlaps substantially with Silverlight, in terms of programming interfaces, according to a recent blog post by software architect and Silverlight Insider Tim Greenfield. Here's a diagram from Greenfield showing that API overlap:

So for those of you asking, yes, Silverlight 5 is still a go. And no word yet as to when -- and if -- Microsoft will explain what's next for the platform.

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