Potentially toughening the competitive landscape for its own Silverlight rich Internet application platform, Microsoft will expand support for the HTML5 specification in its Internet Explorer 9 browser, under a plan revealed Tuesday.
[ InfoWorld's Paul Krill reported on the possibility that HTML5 could kill technologies like Flash and Silverlight. ]
HTML5 has the potential to bring standards-based multimedia capabilities to applications that rival what is possible now with proprietary plug-in software like Adobe Systems Flash and, yes, Silverlight. But Microsoft nonetheless appears gung-ho on HTML5, which has been in development for several years.
"We love HTML5 so much we want it to actually work," said Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer at Microsoft, during a keynote presentation. "In IE9, it will."
Company officials even demonstrated support for HTML5 SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) in IE9. Previously, Microsoft has not backed the graphics standard. Additionally, an update planned for the IE9 platform preview will add support for HTML5 video capabilities.
"When we started looking deeply at HTML5, we saw that it enabled a whole new class of applications," Hachamovitch said.
IE9 will run HTML5 better via GPU acceleration, Hachamovitch said.
But asked during a subsequent press conference whether HTML5 might take away business from the company's prized Silverlight technology, Hachamovitch said the two technologies were "quite complementary."
"I think developers who want to use the exact same markup across multiple browsers, devices, and platforms today choose to use a plug-in," he said. "Over time, there may be more choices. But today, they're clearly complementary."
An attendee lauded Microsoft's backing of HTML5 but still saw a role for Silverlight.
"[HTML5] certainly gives you more options," said Joe Christopher, vice president of software development at HealthStream.
"I still see a need for Silverlight [to provide] some of the richness of interacting with the server and data and things like that," Christopher said.
An analyst also did not see HTML5 as presenting any imminent threat to Silverlight or Flash. "Really, HTML is powerful but Silverlight is quite a bit more powerful," said analyst Al Hilwa, of IDC. "The question is, how much can a developer do with HTML5 [and] will there always be a role for something more sophisticated to describe 3D graphics, that kind of stuff."
HTML5 still is in flux and it might be four or five years before it has stabilized; Silverlight and Flash are here today, Hilwa said.