Yesterday I had the opportunity to present a demo at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Los Angeles. The session was called "Profiting from the Consumerization of IT with Windows Devices and Windows 7 Enterprise." The focus was on how consumer-driven trends impact the enterprise and ways to work with, rather than against, that trend to create successes.
In recent months there were two events that were perceived as blows to the success of Silverlight at large. The first was the announcement that it would not be supported on the iPhone. While this caused a lot of concern and grief, it did not bother me because I knew that the phone is a different target and it would never make sense to run the same application "out of the box" on that space. Even when the Windows Phone 7 was announced along with the support of Silverlight, developers quickly realized that while there are many assets they can share between projects that target the desktop, slate, and the phone, there is still a substantial bit of development specifically targeted to the smaller form factor of the phone.
The bigger trend was when the iPad exploded into popularity. This resulted in a typical scenario: CEO purchases iPad, loves it, brings it into the office and asks, "Why can't all of our applications run on this thing?" and then IT scrambles to rewrite everything using HTML5. Of course, they quickly found that path wasn't easy, either, and although they could produce content for the iPad using HTML5, that application was not the same application they'd be using for other targets.
Our company recently completed a project for Rooms to Go. This what I was asked to demo on stage to present our solution and why it is so important in this space. The company sells furniture with packaged deals that allow you to literally "buy the room." The problem they were solving was a customer experience issue. Sales would engage with a customer on the floor, but if the customer wanted more information about a package, wanted to estimate delivery costs or even just share information, the salesperson had to break away, locate a kiosk, and log in there. It was a very disruptive process.
Rooms to Go wanted something they could carry with them and use on the floor to engage with the customer without having to break away. They wanted it to be easy and intuitive to minimize disruption with training and learning curves. They wanted something rugged so that if it happened to get dropped on the floor (or have something spilled on it) it could keep on running (can you imagine dropping an iPad on the floor?).
The device they went with is the Motion Computing CL900 and I'll let you visit the link for all of the statistics. Why did they go this route, as opposed to some of the other popular devices?
- They needed something that had a security story. There is no security story around many of the other consumer devices. This runs Windows 7 and integrates with Active Directory, honors group policies and interfaces with all of their existing infrastructure.
- They wanted to run their legacy applications. One distinct difference between Windows tablets and other consumer products is that they run the full Windows operating system and are not just a "phone on a slate" that doesn't make calls. This means it was easy for them to load their existing apps right on the tablet and still use them even if they weren't built with "touch first" in mind.
- They wanted to leverage existing mindshare. By building the application in Silverlight they were able to stick with a development environment (Visual Studio) and a language (C#) they were familiar with. Our team worked shoulder to shoulder with theirs to deliver the product and ensure they understood the framework and owned the code. The application used my Jounce MEF and MVVM framework for Silverlight.
If you are a Silverlight developer and are shaking in your boots over recent announcements, I wouldn't be. While the future is still not clear and we won't know much more until the BUILD conference still weeks away, keep in mind this scenario and the fact that companies want to have an engaging, interactive, .NET and Windows based experience they can deliver, and the demand for Silverlight line of business is only growing. It will only increase in my opinion with the release of version 5. With the number of companies that are still on Windows XP it would take 300,000 upgrades a day to convert them to Windows 7 before end of support ... and that means regardless of the Windows 8 story, there is still going to be a strong platform and support base for delivering Silverlight line of business applications.
The slate is the perfect example of a use case for Silverlight Line of Business. I'll be delivering a talk about developing for slate using Silverlight at reMIX South in the Atlanta area on August 6th. I'll cover how we were able to use existing frameworks and libraries like the LightTouch library to quickly develop a comprehensive solution that solved a real world problem. I hope to see you there. If there is nothing else you take away from this, hopefully I've demonstrated the real world demand and application of solutions for line of business applications written in Silverlight.