Microsoft released the Silverlight 4.0 runtime yesterday. Developers can also download the Silverlight 4 Tools; but they are not yet done:
Note that this is a second Release Candidate (RC2) for the tools; the final release will be announced in the coming weeks.
Although it is not stated explicitly, I assume it is fine to use these tools for production work.
Another product needed for Silverlight development but still not final is Expression Blend 4.0. This is the designer-focused IDE for Silverlight and Windows Presentation Foundation. Microsoft has made the release candidate available, but it looks as if the final version will be even later than that for Silverlight 4 Tools.
Disappointing in the context of the launch of Visual Studio 2010; but bear in mind that Silverlight has been developed remarkably fast overall. There are huge new features in version 4, which was first announced at the PDC last November; and that followed only a few months after the release of version 3 last summer.
Why all this energy behind Silverlight? It’s partly Adobe Flash catch-up, I guess, with Silverlight 4 competing more closely with Adobe AIR; and partly a realisation that Silverlight can be the unifying technology that brings together web and client, mobile and desktop for Microsoft. It’s a patchy story of course – not only is the appearance of Silverlight on Apple iPhone or iPad vanishingly unlikely, but more worrying for Microsoft, I hear few people even asking for it.
Even so, Silverlight 4.0 plus Visual Studio 2010 is a capable platform; it will be interesting to see how well it is taken up by developers. If version 4.0 is still not enough to drive mainstream adoption, then I doubt whether any version will do it.
That also raises the question: how can we measure Silverlight take-up? The riastats charts tell us about browser deployment, but while that is important, it only tells us how many have hit some Silverlight content and allowed the plug-in to install. I look at things like activity in the Silverlight forums:
Our forums have 217,426 threads and 247,562 posts, contributed by 77,034 members from around the world. In the past day, we had 108 new threads, 529 new posts, and 70 new users.
it says currently – substantial, but not yet indicative of a major platform shift. Or job stats – 309 UK vacancies right now, according to itjobswatch, putting it behind WPF at 662 vacancies and Adobe Flash at 740. C# on the other hand has 5349; Java 6023.