Why Silverlight?

I noticed this question in a comment to Rob Blackwell’s Reg article on Silverlight:

…given that MS never does anything without a commercial reason … why Silverlight? What sales will it make? What competition will it kill? As far as I can see, there’s nothing that will tie SL exclusively to a particular MS product.

Answer: it’s all about the platform stack. Microsoft does not want to cede this space to Adobe and Flash, because it is strategic. Use Flash, use Adobe’s tools rather than Visual Studio, use the Java-based LiveCycle and JEE rather than ASP.NET and Windows Server. Use Silverlight, use Visual Studio, ASP.NET, XAML, SQL Server, all the Microsoft stuff.

What about the Internet as an advertising platform? Flash/Silverlight is the client runtime.

What about the Internet as a broadcasting platform? Same story.

I speculated recently about the future of gaming.

Silverlight is partly defensive. In other words, less about “what sales it will make?” than about, “what sales will it avoid losing?” Web developers need to support cross-platform clients; if Microsoft cannot provide the tools and server-side platform to make that work, developers will look elsewhere.

I picked up a hint here at Tech-Ed that SQL Server Compact Edition may find its way into a future Silverlight. A cross-platform local database store makes a lot of sense; Adobe already has this in the form of SQLite. If Adobe’s AIR proves popular, Microsoft could relatively easily push Silverlight in that direction as well, providing a way of running Silverlight outside the browser.

Doesn’t this undermine Windows? Maybe a little, and I am sure this is a point of debate within Microsoft, but it is worth it.

Silverlight’s big problem: devices. Flash on iPhone: possible, even likely. Silverlight on iPhone, Nokia? A stretch.

One thought on “Why Silverlight?”

  1. It shows quite astounding temerity, or perhaps just desperation, that Microsoft thinks it might be able to steal a march on Flash. They should get this local database thingy included pronto; without it they’re sunk.

    I actually considered Silverlight for a project I’m speccing out, because I figured it must have offline functionality to compete with AIR, but no. Silverlight is just Flash fourteen years too late, or as my friend put it, a technology to enable VB programmers to make stuff whizz around the screen.

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