Monday, November 1, 2010

Silverlight and HTML5: Microsoft's Official Stance

This weekend was a wild ride with speculation about the future of Silverlight and whether or not Microsoft was abandoning it. It produced a lot of misinformation as anti-Silverlight zealots proclaimed its official demise with a smattering of "I told you so" thrown in.

My blog post on the topic where I detailed just why I didn't believe the hype and how common sense should show that Silverlight is here to stay caused quite a jump in readership (click here to see the trend). People everywhere were scrambling to uncover just what it all meant, and consultants in the Silverlight field found themselves fielding questions by concerned customers.

Fortunately, we can put to rest the nonsense and focus on the official news from Redmond. This is direct from the mother ship, not hearsay or speculation.

¡Viva la Silverlight!

Let's get rid of the fuzz on the screen and dial in to the clear, concise message. To set the stage, here are the myths that were spread:

Myth: "Microsoft has seen the light, and it's not Silverlight."

Fact: Microsoft continues to fully support Silverlight in all of its flavors, with new variations on the horizon.

Myth: "Microsoft embraces HTML5 over Silverlight."

Fact: Microsoft embraces HTML5 with Silverlight as two technologies with different targets.

Myth: "Microsoft switches focus from Silverlight to HTML5."

Fact: Microsoft is a big company that has many teams that can focus on both Silveright and HTML5.

Myth: "Microsoft nails Silverlight's future to Windows Phones."

Fact: Windows Phone 7 is only one of many platforms that support Silverlight. Future versions of Silverlight are being planned for all platforms, not just the phone.

Don't take my word for it, here is Microsoft's from the official Silverlight blog: PDC and Silverlight (by Bob Muglia). You can also read the press statement by Steve Ballmer by clicking here. Tim Heuer shared this this post with a nice graphic by Silverlight that "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Finally, Scott Guthrie who runs many of the development teams at Microsoft, posted his take on the matter (with a little teaser that details for the upcoming Silverlight "vNext" or 5.0 version will be coming soon).

Before I dive into the key points, read this statement from Tim Heuer on what he has personally done to commit himself to the future success of Silverlight. I believe it says a lot about the fact that there is much to do, and many willing to do it:

This past year I decided to take a deeper role in the engineering side of Silverlight. In making this decision I had to relocate to Redmond. This involved me relocating my family away from our comfort zone and having to start completely new. It was perhaps the biggest personal change in my life I’ve made yet. My kids left their friends, as did we. My wife left her close knit family in AZ. My wife stopped a business she was just getting great momentum on before this decision. We sold our house at a significant personal financial loss. We moved to an area where home prices didn't fall like we were used to and thus aren't in a position of buying power. You'll forgive me if I say that no software project has made more of a bet on Silverlight than I have personally this year.

That's a powerful story, but let's move on to the facts. The main points made by Microsoft today (the underlines are mine):

  1. Silverlight is very important and strategic to Microsoft.
  2. We're working hard on the next release of Silverlight, and it will continue to be cross-browser and cross-platform, and run on Windows and Mac
  3. Silverlight is a core application development platform for Windows, and it's the development platform for Windows Phone.

According to Steve Ballmer, "We will also enable browser scenarios that provide additional capabilities, including Silverlight. Silverlight provides the richest media streaming capabilities on the web, and we will continue to deliver that on both Windows and Mac ... Developers can build great applications for [Windows Phone 7] using Win32, .NET, Silverlight and HTML5."

Even before the huge flood of speculative posts and articles exploded on the web, John Papa interviewed Scott Guthrie to talk about The State of Silverlight. If you have 20 minutes, it's a great interview to watch.

Some more quotes that I love:

Silverlight provides the richest way to build Web-delivered client apps.

Silverlight is a critical component of our three-screen strategy.

Silverlight has and will continue to be a pioneering technology that makes it possible to deliver the best media experiences anywhere.

Finally, I want to leave you with the entire last paragraph of Bob Muglia's post because it is so important and echoes exactly what I've been saying the past few days. This is really one of the best summaries of what Silverlight is and can do that I've seen, and descrihes why it plays nicely with (and doesn't compete directly with) HTML5:

The purpose of Silverlight has never been to replace HTML, but rather to do the things that HTML (and other technologies) can't, and to do so in a way that’s easy for developers to use. Silverlight enables great client app and media experiences. It's now installed on two-thirds of the world’s computers, and more than 600,000 developers currently build software using it. Make no mistake; we'll continue to invest in Silverlight and enable developers to build great apps and experiences with it in the future.

There you have it. To all of you who jumped on the "Silverlight is dead" bandwagon this weekend, hate to disappoint you, but: Silverlight is alive, well, and here to stay with Microsoft's full support and backing. Jeremy Likness