Will Silverlight or Air hit enterprises?

Winning consumers and developers over is key to getting enterprises to pay attention to adopting either platform, says analyst.

As Web applications grow in popularity with consumers, it may not be long before such applications gain traction with the business audience.

Two Web app platforms enjoying a fair amount of media spotlight now are Adobe Air and Microsoft Silverlight. Both have the ability to bring richer Internet applications to the user, but which has a greater chance of getting deployed in an enterprise?

Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum, is leaning toward Adobe Air, for now. In an interview with ZDNet Asia, he said the two keys to enterprise uptake is adherence to standards and gaining market share beyond the PC.

On standards, Leach said Air is more standards-compliant, built atop current Web standards, which could make it easier for developers to port over existing applications.

Adrian Ludwig, group manager of Adobe's platform and development unit, said in an interview that reusing existing development frameworks would make building and deploying Web apps faster, and lower risk.

According to Ludwig, a November 2007 Forrester report stated that until recently, the primary options for bringing rich experiences to business users were enterprise portals or Microsoft Office. The report went on to say the trend is moving toward rich Internet applications to achieve that, with 40 to 60 percent of companies building such applications today.

Leach said Silverlight, on the other hand, is "defined completely by Microsoft and is new in that sense".

However, Leach noted that enterprise developers are more likely to be familiar with the Microsoft toolchain, which is more commonly used for enterprise application development, and can use those skill sets with Silverlight.

"What both companies are striving for is to establish [the platforms] as de facto standards, since it is unlikely that there would be one established by a standards body," said Leach.

On that point, Adobe has a better chance of being the "de facto standard" because of its current lead in the market, he said.

But Microsoft is on the march to push Silverlight into as many homes as possible. One source of an expected boost in uptake will be the Beijing Olympics in August.

Leon Brown, user experience and designer market lead, Microsoft Asia-Pacific, said in an interview U.S. broadcaster, NBC's upcoming Silverlight-enabled site expects up to 30 million users simultaneously accessing the streaming video site.

"One way to consider enterprise support is the scalability of the systems that support Silverlight...[NBC's] choice of the Microsoft platform was specifically to deal with the scale of the broadcast," said Brown.

South Korean music network, MNet, has also decided to build its media player on Silverlight, he added.

Leach said the greatest opportunities for the platforms lie in the ability to exist on myriad devices, such as mobiles or set top boxes, for example.

"The success of extending beyond the PC will be a real indicator as to which one will ultimately be successful," said Leach.

Leach said: "Ovum believes there will be room for both technologies in the market place. We generally believe that diverse manufacturers won't choose one over the other...they'll support as many developer communities as possible on their devices to create content [for their products]."