Skip to content

Market Context for Silverlight – A Brief Q&A

A little while ago, a reporter asked me several questions about Silverlight. Rather than lock-up that Q&A in my email archives, I’ve spliced it in below with some minor edits. Also, for more Silverlight/Microsoft analysis, check out RIA Weekly #11 with WaveMaker’s Chris Keene. Chris had a lot to say on the topic, which prompted more commentary from Ryan and I.

Q: What is your overall feeling about Silverlight at this time?

A: At the moment, Silverlight feels like it’s going to be on a full-on contender
with Flash and Flex in a short time. Silverlight 2.0 is supposed to bring in
the more “hard core” GUI programming features
that Flex has. Perhaps Microsoft’s Mesh project will address the offline synch tick-list of AIR. Then, the battle
will be over ubiquity, developer hearts and minds, and control of the web.

Q: Do you think Silverlight brings anything actually new to multimedia Web
technology and features compared to Adobe’s Flash/FLEX platform?

Not really. Sure, there’re different codecs, ways of providing a rich
interface, and there are things awesome Silverlight features like the recent
demo of SeaDragon integration:

A: I’m
always waiting for the .Net CLR to be a big deal industry-wide, but without solid
cross-platform support on runtime and tools (Windows, Mac, and Linux/Unix),
the CLR’s benefits are limited to Window-bound developers. At the end of the
day, both are just delivering “GUI 2.0,” which is much welcomed over current
GUI frameworks.

Q: Do you see much demand for Silverlight development (spurred either by
developers or the market), or anticipate there will be significant demand?

A: Yes, people will want to develop in Silverlight. Pre-existing Microsoft
developers will use it for sure, and if there’s a good cross-platform even –
dare I say it? – open source story when it comes to runtimes and tools, new
developers will be interested as well. Select developers are loving the
richness that Flex gives them now, and the idea that UI’s have to be HTML/Ajax
based is showing some cracks. The interest is there, it just needs to be well

Q: Ultimately, how do you think Silverlight will fare in this space? Is it a
real threat to Flash, or not at all? Or will they co-exist equally on the

A: Silverlight is a threat to Flash and Flex for sure. Developers have a limited
amount of attention, and the two compete for the UI slices of that pie.

For me, the really interesting competitor are companies like Google and Yahoo! who
depend on the web being primarily HTML/Ajax based to serve up ads and provide
other services. A new UI layer that runs on-top of the web could be a real
hassle (read: loosing money) for people and services that are used to the more “transparent” UI
layer that the “View Source” nature of the web affords.

Ongoing, we’ll find
out how open Adobe, Microsoft, and other RIA offerings are to the web-hackablity
we’ve grown accustomed to, and made plenty of revenue with over the past
decade or so. Of course, that only matters if these RIA offerings replace
large parts of the web as we know it, which is still a big “if.”

For more on that, see RIA Weekly episode #10:

Disclaimer: Microsoft is a client, as is Adobe.

Technorati Tags: ,

Categories: Development Tools, Enterprise Software, Marketing, Programming.