The WPF-based New York Times reader is one of my favorite RIAs out there. I wrote a long post about it when it first came out praising the added interactivity and for making reading the newspaper a lot more interesting. I also think it does a good job of showing off WPF, and it was one of the first really good showcase apps for Microsoft's next gen platform.
So when I heard that they were working on a Silverlight-based Mac version (more here) I was intrigued for a number of reasons. The screenshots make it look very similar to the regular WPF-based app and in some cases the post implies areas (like Search) are going to be better than the Windows version. And it's all based on Silverlight:
We are using Microsoft’s Silverlight technology to render the pages on the Mac version. Silverlight includes a subset of the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) tools we use on the PC version. This allows us to keep the look and feel of the Mac version very close to the PC version and also allows us to reuse code across platforms. However, text flow and copy/paste are not currently supported through Silverlight yet will be soon.
More interesting is how they describe what goes on under the hood:
For those who are technically minded, here’s a short description of how the Mac version works. We paginate the pages for the Mac version on our servers (the Windows version does this on the PC). When you sync, we send you pages for the four window and three font sizes described above. (The Windows version flows the text to fit your window size using WPF on your PC.) Times Reader for the Mac is a native Cocoa application, which uses the Safari toolkit and Silverlight to render the pages.
This raises all kinds of questions (keep in mind, I'm an Adobe Employee). I assume they had to cut a deal with Microsoft to get a distribution like this. Is this something Microsoft will offer more companies? Silverlight and WPF have been slowing getting closer if you look at Silverlight 2's progress but WPF has always been the better experience for creating .NET applications. In the experience world WPF is the Ferrari, Silverlight is like a Lexus, and Ajax is that Nissan Stanza that your sisters boyfriend bought for $50 in high school. (Kidding!). WPF is what helps sell Windows so it's always been kind of against Microsoft's best interests to truly have feature-for-feature parity with WPF (plus it seems technically crazy to try). But with the NYT reader they're giving users a taste of that WPF experience for the first time. Sure it doesn't have text flow, but that's coming "soon" according to the post.
So I wonder what Mac users are going to think. It's undoubtedly a good way to show off Silverlight, and it raises some very interesting questions for other people who want to build WPF-like apps on the Mac, but I'm very curious how close the experience is to the actual WPF reader on Vista. I think it will be interesting to see where the trend goes and how many more WPF applications end up being ported to a Silverlight/Cocao blend on the Mac.