First look: Microsoft Silverlight 3 challenges Adobe AIR

Redmond's much-enhanced rich Internet application platform also runs on Windows or Mac desktops, online or offline

Page 2 of 2

What else was wrong with Silverlight 2? From a developer's point of view, no single tool covered all needs; Expression Blend 2 did graphical XAML design but couldn't edit code, and Visual Studio 2008 did code editing and XAML editing and preview, but couldn't do graphical XAML design. That will be fixed in Expression Blend 3 and Visual Studio 2010, both of which have solid betas. For designers, the Expression Blend 3 Preview already imports Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files, another lack in Blend 2, and will add "SketchFlow" prototyping and interactive behaviors in a future release.

In addition, Silverlight 2 lacked 3-D graphics, pixel shader effects, writing to bitmaps, animation effects, themes, decent data binding, and a reasonable assortment of controls. Those deficiencies are all fixed in Silverlight 3.

Rich and obscure

One problem area that Flash and Silverlight have had in common is SEO (search engine optimization). A search engine such as Google can only see the text on a Web page; RIA applications historically have not displayed usable text or allowed external links to states "deep" inside the animation, concentrating instead on their forte -- flashy graphics. Recently there's been some improvement in SEO for Flash and Flex, using external JavaScript objects such as SWFObject (for dynamic loading) and SWFAddress (for deep linking), at least for those who to take the trouble to revamp their Flash sites; Silverlight 3 addresses both SEO and deep linking internally.

Silverlight has long been strong on execution speed and language support. Both of those are getting better still in version 3.

I do not expect many Adobe shops to give up their Flash, Flex, and AIR for Silverlight 3. I do expect many Microsoft shops to do more RIAs with Silverlight now that it's more capable and to create lightweight browser/desktop Silverlight 3 applications where they might have fashioned heavier-weight Windows Forms or WPF client applications. Some mixed but Microsoft-oriented shops might phase out their Adobe work in favor of Silverlight on integration grounds, but some won't. Meanwhile, the next generation of streaming media adoptions are likely to be closely contested, now that the two technologies are near parity.

Of course, in a few months everything will change again. Stay tuned.

Microsoft Silverlight 3 beta

ProsSilverlight 3 applications can run in or out of the browser, online or offline. Much improved audio and HD video support. 3-D graphics and pixel shading effects. Many more controls, with enhanced data support. Expression Blend can import Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files.
ConsNo go-live license for the beta; need to wait for release, probably in July.
CostFree
PlatformsDevelopment: Windows XP SP2 or later with Visual Studio 2008 SP1 or Visual Web Developer Express 2008 SP1. Runtime: Windows XP SP2 or later, or Intel-based Mac OS X.
| 1 2 Page 2