Will Silverlight live or die? Microsoft won't say

The company has given little indication of what it plans to do with the plug-in technology, leaving developers in a lurch

Being a Silverlight developer these days is like being a fan of the Oakland Athletics, the baseball team made famous in the Oscar-nominated film "Moneyball."

Some background, for those who are not followers of the A's: For nearly three years now, A's fans and team ownership itself have been waiting for Major League Baseball brass to make a decision on whether the A's can move about 35 miles south to San Jose. In the meantime, this has left fans in limbo about the future of the team.

Silverlight developers are in a similar predicament. Although Microsoft released Silverlight 5 in December, the company has since been silent about any future release of the platform, saying it is too early to comment.

That doesn't sound like a big deal until you factor in the fact that the company has been fawning over HTML5 lately.

HTML5, of course, provides a standards-based set of technologies for multimedia-based Web applications and is considered a rival to plug-in technologies like Silverlight and Adobe's Flash platform. Microsoft raised eyebrows this past September when it announced that no plug-ins would work with the Metro version of the Internet Explorer browser planned for Windows 8. In other words, HTML5 got the nod over Silverlight.

Meanwhile, the annual Microsoft Mix conference, which has been used to showcase Silverlight, is not being held this year. Mix instead will be merged into Microsoft's next developer conference to be held later this year. Personnel-wise, Microsoft vice president Scott Guthrie, who had been a key advocate for Silverlight, has moved onto dealing with the company's Windows Azure cloud platform. Guthrie declined to comment on the fate of Silverlight when asked at the Node Summit conference in San Francisco this week. "I don't work on that team anymore, so I'm not going to put words in their mouth," Guthrie said when asked the prospects for a Silverlight 6 release.

Silverlight was a rising star just a few years ago, when it was expected to give Flash a run for its money. But HTML5 has taken the luster off of proprietary plug-ins. Microsoft and Adobe have really had no choice but to embrace HTML5 to a degree. Microsoft's silence on Silverlight at this juncture might not mean all that much: Silverlight user groups are still found on Google searches; Silverlight developer jobs are listed online as well. But given the cloud over Silverlight, it might be time for Microsoft to come clean with either an upgrade plan for the platform or some other clear statement of direction.

Unlike A's fans, who have endured more than 1,000 days of official silence about the team's fate, Silverlight developers will need to know soon what kind of future they can expect for the platform.

This story, "Will Silverlight live or die? Microsoft won't say," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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