Silverlight 4 ticks all the boxes, questions remain

Microsoft has announced Silverlight 4 here at PDC in Los Angeles. The gist of it I was expecting – device support, an option for fuller system access out of the browser – but the extent of the new features is remarkable. Here’s a few highlights:

  • Improved Just-in-time compilation gives 30% faster start-up, up to 100% performance increase
  • COM automation support on Windows when out of browser with full trust
  • Access to local file system, cross-site Internet access, custom window chrome when in full trust out of browser
  • Notification pop-up support even when sandboxed
  • Drag and drop target even when sandboxed
  • HTML control (only works out of browser), supports plug-ins
  • Rich text control with right-to-left text support
  • Printing support
  • Clipboard, right-click and mouse wheel support
  • Web cam and microphone support

Of course there are a few unanswered questions, such as what level of HTML support is available, or how Microsoft is protecting users from malicious Silverlight applets; I’ll be exploring these later today.

It’s clear though that Microsoft wants to compete fully with Adobe AIR, and that its energetic Silverlight development is continuing at full pace.

The beta is available now; full release is promised for the first half of 2010.

So where is Microsoft going with this? Why would anyone develop for WPF and Windows, if good enough features, cross-platform, and zero install is available through Silverlight?

Interesting times for .NET developers.

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6 comments to Silverlight 4 ticks all the boxes, questions remain

  • As a Linux user and developer, why would I even consider Silverlight for a second? It’s non-standard, breaks cross-platform compatibility, and it’s undoubtedly under multiple MS patents. Given that great open standard alternatives (e.g. SVG) exist that are actually cross platform and are unencumbered by patents, I can’t think of any benefits whatsoever choose lock-in to MS technologies…

    Perhaps you can suggest something that I have clearly missed about it’s appeal?

    Dave (@lightweight)

  • Sorry, above that should’ve said “why choose to be locked in to MS technologies?”.

    Dave

  • > Why would anyone develop for WPF and Windows, if good enough features, cross-platform, and zero install is available through Silverlight?

    Silverlight is cross-platform. That means there are going to be a log of Windows-specific features that you just won’t have access to. Even the COM support won’t necessarily help, as it requires the COM components to already be on the machine and registered.

    A perfect example of this is the Visual Studio and Expression Studio products. Silverlight just isn’t designed to support such large, invasive applications. We also aren’t seeing features like file associations, let alone jump lists.

    That said, I suspect that many applications are going to fall into the gray zone between WPF and Silverlight.

  • Open-source-closed-eyes

    Dave, he was obviously talking to WPF windows programmers. Do you Linux guys ALWAYS have to pick a fight?

    Silverlight is solving real problems for many of us. SVG? Are you kidding me? We’re talking about sophisticated apps with better-than-desktop UI capabilities, not cute little vector graphics. Why don’t you actually investigate it and see what it can do before you judge it? I don’t understand why many open-source advocates (an I am one) are so willing to throw the baby out with the bath water.

  • junihor

    “As a Linux user and developer, why would I even consider Silverlight for a second”

    Let’s face it: Client side Linux sleeps w/ fishes. It’s not like you have got a ton of Linux desktop users out there warranting the effort to develop a SilverLight for Linux.

  • Unlike Windows users, Linux users are forced to use Windows all the time due to the stupidity of monopoly lockin and to support our customers who – unfortunately – exist in a Microsoft-dominated computing world.

    We Linux users know what Windows can (and can’t) do. For a Windows user to say Linux sleeps with the fishes means that s/he hasn’t tried it. Most of Windows 7′s “innovations” have been part of Linux desktop UI for years.

    Clearly, MS just want to try to head off the convergence around around SVG (we’re developing shit-hot UIs with SVG and Canvas right now), currently supported out-of-the-box by all major browsers (not counting IE in that, of course) and Adobe’s Flash.

    This is a control issue, pure and simple. There are certainly good ideas within Silverlight (with the amount of resources poured into it, I’d hope so!), but if Microsoft was anything other than a predatory monopoly trying to screw its users/developers, why wouldn’t it contribute to the existing market leaders? Like IE 7+, Silverlight is another unnecessary “Me too!” technology that succeed based purely on inertia – they’re otherwise unworthy of hype – its handful of innovations could be put into something *truly* cross platform and open standards based, that all developers could get behind.

    I think it’s hard for MS to justify trying to introduce any Windows-only tech these days – anything they’ve introduced is an unacceptable compromise of everyone’s freedom, and their bet-hedging that Windows will not longer be the dominant platform in a few years time. Given the huge percentage of desktop development that’s explicitly cross-platform these days (yes, targeting Linux, too), MS’s future domination of the desktop isn’t something my business would bet on.