InfoWorld review: Microsoft Silverlight 4 vs. Adobe Flash 10.1

Silverlight challenges the RIA supremacy of Flash, Flex, and AIR with superior development tools and design tool integration

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Flash or Silverlight?
Adobe has long dominated the RIA scene thanks to the ubiquitous Flash Player, estimated to run in upward of 93 percent of the world's Web browsers. But that domination was born in a near-vacuum of competitive choice. Adobe has improved the developer experience and finally constructed a bridge to its formidable design suite, but Microsoft has come further faster. To be fair, although Microsoft has made great strides with each release of Silverlight, much of the distance it has crossed had already been trod by Adobe.

Ultimately, innovative feature sets and powerful development tools will eke out an RIA category killer. Development of a solid mobile framework will be essential for both vendors as data consumption continues to shift from traditional desktop and laptop computers to smaller, touch-screen devices. Time will tell how Flash and AIR will fare on Android and whether Silverlight will join them there or remain faithful to Windows Phone 7

For the moment, the decision is between Microsoft's strong developer orientation and Adobe's emphasis on design. For any enterprise project requiring heavy programming or data access, especially in-house applications that would benefit from Windows desktop integration, Silverlight is the top choice. The available codecs are sufficient by today's standards, and in most cases the user interface designs can be ported from Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator without degradation -- although workflow will be somewhat encumbered.

However, if your application will be making basic service calls to feed data and won't require a lot of processing overhead, or if your goal is eye-popping layouts or 3D graphics for customer-facing communications -- i.e., whenever the development process is design-intensive -- then you'll benefit from Adobe's designer-oriented approach. If you're already an Adobe shop, or you've already begun with Silverlight, you're undoubtedly happy with what you've got. Both platforms are strong, and the competition will keep both vendors working hard to make them better.

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This story, "InfoWorld review: Microsoft Silverlight 4 vs. Adobe Flash 10.1," was originally published at Follow the latest news in software development at

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