Tag Archives | Microsoft Silverlight

Silverlight: The Cup is Three-Quarters Full

Last week, I wrote about an interesting post by ZDnet’s Mary Jo Foley in which Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft’s servers and tools business, seemed to be downplaying Silverlight, Microsoft’s Flash-like plugin for rich Internet applications. Muglia has followed up with a blog post of his own at Microsoft’s site in which he sounds more upbeat about Silverlight--although he’s equally high on HTML5. I don’t think there’s any basic conflict between what Muglia said in his interview with Mary Jo and what he says in his post. It’s a matter of spin, and he wanted to reassure Silverlight developers that the platform has a future.

There’s no question that Silverlight (and Flash) can do many things that HTML can’t today, and which HTML5 won’t be able to do anytime soon. As a user of Web sites, though, I’m way more excited about cool stuff that works in any modern browser than I am about cool stuff that requires a plugin from a particular company. The quality of the support for HTML5 and other new technologies in the Internet Explorer 9 beta is encouraging evidence that Microsoft’s Silverlight strategy doesn’t involve cramming the plugin down anyone’s throat.


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Is Microsoft Turning Off the SilverLight ?

ZDnet’s Mary Jo Foley has an interesting news tidbit: Microsoft seems to be downplaying the original goals for its Silverlight platform, which were to take on Adobe’s Flash as a pervasive plug-in for rich media applications. SilverLight is part of the toolset developers use to build Windows Phone 7 apps, and Microsoft says it’ll be useful for some other specialized applications. But when it comes to making Web sites fancier, the company seems to be turning its attention to HTML5 standards rather than its own proprietary creations.

SilverLight wasn’t without its attractions–waitaminnit, it’s probably premature to be referring to it in the past tense–but I suspect most third-party observers who aren’t developers with an investment in SilverLight will approve of the idea of Microsoft putting most of its eggs in the HTML5 basket. The Web’s going to be a better place once every browser supports all animation, video, and interactivity in the same fashion without the use of multiple plugins. And Internet Explorer 9’s serious HTML5 support is both better for consumers and better for Microsoft’s continuing relevance than any future version of SilverLight could be.


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Microsoft: Silverlight will “Optimize Everywhere”

Microsoft wants Silverlight to be optimized for every platform that it runs on, said Brian Goldfarb, director of developer and user experience platforms at Microsoft, during an interview at the company’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC) on Wednesday (Nov. 18).

Silverlight runs on Mac OS X and Windows; it is available on Linux through Mono Moonlight, an open source project that Microsoft supports. I also expect that Moonlight will be running on Android in near future. Goldfarb explained that it was not enough for Silverlight to “run everywhere,” but that it should “light up” specific platforms.

Microsoft needs to consider screen size and other aspects of a device, which is particularly relevant in the mobile space, he explained. There are also mobile platform features such as SMS, phone dialing, and address books that Silverlight could exploit, he added. That would allow Silverlight applications to be customized for smartphones.

Silverlight 4, which Microsoft announced at PDC, will allow applications to access Windows features, hardware, and the local file system. That allows devices such as Webcams to accessed by Silverlight. However, the same level of optimization is not currently being offering for other platforms.

Microsoft will give Silverlight “trusted” access local resources on Macs, meaning that all features work except for COM integration, Goldfarb said. More work is needed to extend Silverlight for non-Windows platforms, Goldfarb admitted, saying that the company was “thinking around” the concept of extensions.

COM is a Windows technology that enables applications that may have been written in different languages to communicate with each other. Microsoft Office makes heavy use of COM. “We are actively evaluating the best way to get COM like features on other platforms,” Goldfarb wrote in a follow up e-mail.

To that end, the company has started an open source project called Managed Extensibility Framework for .NET and Silverlight. The Mono team is working on an equivalent project, Goldfarb said. He expects that Mono will “accelerate dramatically” in the near future, delivering more features to Linux users.

I expect that anything but Windows will be a second-class Silverlight citizen for some time. But Microsoft is making strides toward delivering an optimized experience on other platforms, and in doing so, will gain a foothold on the Web beyond Windows.


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Report: BlackBerries to Bundle Flash and Silverlight

The Boy Genius Report says that it is “pretty much confirmed” that Research In Motion will integrate full Flash and Silverlight run time support into its BlackBerry Web browser. If true, that would be a significant step in the transformation of smart phones into functional mini computers.

Flash and Silverlight are not just about games and streaming videos; the run times power Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). Adobe is promoting Flash to be used as a front end for business applications, and Microsoft is positioning Silverlight for business apps.

At SD Times, I have covered component makers that are releasing Silverlight controls (data grids, charts, UI controls) for line of business applications. After all, Silverlight is a subset of the .NET Framework, which is used for business applications.

With HTML 5, Web applications will become even more common, because it will have a built-in application container. Other techniques such as AJAX will also enable Web applications to run within a phone’s browser. (Nokia is betting that standard AJAX Web applications will become popular across its entire portfolio of S60 devices.)

Supporting Flash and Silverlight, assuming it happens, will bring a greater variety of applications to BlackBerry devices. Developers will be able to run their applications on Blackberries using the skills that they have today –without having to learn any specialized RIM technologies. That’s the way it should be; skills should be portable.

By embracing Flash and Silverlight, RIM would break out of the walled garden that smartphones have existed in, making itself more attractive and accessible to application makers. Consumers will win by being able to do more with their devices.


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Silverlight 3’s Chicken-or-the-Egg Conundrum

SilverlightMicrosoft is rolling out version 3 of Silverlight, its competitor to Adobe’s Flash, and the Expression tools used to create Silverlight content in San Francisco today. The new version of Silverlight can smoothly stream live HD video, supports hardware graphics acceleration, does 2-and-a-half-D effects involving moving flat objects in 3D space, and can be used to build applications that run outside of a Web browser as well as inside it. Basically, it looks pretty cool.

Steve Ballmer doesn’t seem to be here, but another Microsoft exec invoked his Developers, Developers, Developers mantra at the keynote this morning. And every Microsoft employee I’ve chatted with has stressed the notion that Microsoft is about helping developers build applications. (They keep bringing up the fact that Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft in 1975 to sell their version of the BASIC programming language–call me paranoid, but I think they may have discussed the talking points they wanted to hammer home.)

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