With Silverlight suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous HTML5 fortune, Microsoft will hold a one-day lovefest for the development platform with a cloudy future.
Microsoft vice president Scott Guthrie, of ASP.Net fame (and current Microsoft Developer Division/Silverlight head honcho), will deliver the keynote at the all-Silverlight rally scheduled for Dec. 2 in Redmond. "It's just like an extra day of PDC, dedicated to Silverlight," the banner proclaims.
While Silverlight doesn't exactly compete head-to-head with Adobe Flash, nor goes directly mano-a-mano against HTML5, all three address much of the same market and are clearly hurtling head-long on a collision course. Of course, Silverlight fans disagree. Of course, Flash fans disagree as well. But those of us who rejoice in seeing standards-based solutions to common problems can't help but raise a rousing cheer for HTML5.
Silverlight, you may recall, was ignored completely at the Professional Developer's Conference this year. Shortly after PDC, Microsoft president Bob Muglia told ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley, "our strategy has shifted." He left Silverlight fans and developers wondering precisely where Microsoft was headed with the product when he explained, "Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone... But HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything..."
Covering his keester shortly afterward, Bob posted a retraction of sorts on the Silverlight Team Blog. "I understand that what I said surprised people and caused controversy and confusion... Silverlight is a core application development platform for Windows, and it's the development platform for Windows Phone."
I would submit that the original statement was quite clear. It's his retraction that causes me some confusion. For example, even though the Windows Phone 7 software is written in Silverlight, the phone itself doesn't support Silverlight. Browse to a Silverlight Web page using your Windows Phone 7 telephone and all you get is a dull "Huh?" from the browser.
Silverlight may be a great programming language -- er, development platform. There's nothing wrong with using Silverlight to build sites for internal corporate use. It just doesn't cut the mustard out on the wild, wild Web. Yes, Netflix requires Silverlight, but can you name three other sites that use it? I mean, non-Microsoft sites that you actually want to view?
It reminds me a lot of the old FoxPro days. Microsoft bought Fox Technologies in 1992, worked on FoxPro for a while, then let it die on the vine. Many people learned to love (or at least live with) FoxPro, but it was supplanted by Access. The two aren't completely congruent, but they address the same market and solve the same problems, but FoxPro just didn't make the cut. I bet we see the same thing happen with Silverlight.
If you want "a powerful development platform for creating engaging, interactive user experiences for Web, desktop, and mobile applications when online or offline," then be sure to register and watch the online presentation.
On the other hand, if you're seriously considering using Silverlight to build an outward-facing website, it's time to wake up and smell the HTML5 coffee. Silverlight isn't dead. Heck, you can still find Visual FoxPro developers. They're sitting right next to the CICS guys. But hitching your wagon to a Microsoft-proprietary graphics framework? Fuhgeddaboutit.
This article, "Microsoft casts about for Silverlight converts," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.