Category Archives: silverlight

Microsoft Build Sessions published: Windows Phone XAML and HTML/JS apps, new Azure APIs and more

Developing for Windows Phone is now closer to developing for the Windows 8 runtime, according to information from Microsoft’s Build sessions, just published.

Build is Microsoft’s developer conference which opens tomorrow in San Francisco.


Building a Converged Phone and PC App using HTML and JavaScript states that “An exciting part of Windows Phone 8.1 is that you can now start building applications natively in HTML and JavaScript.”

Other sessions refer to the Common XAML UI Framework, which seems to refer to a shared UI framework for Windows Phone and WIndows 8, but using XAML rather than HTML and JavaScript.

This is in addition to Silverlight, not instead, judging by this session:

We’ve been doing a lot of work with new converged XAML app support on Windows Phone 8.1, but what about legacy Windows Phone Silverlight XAML based apps?  Come learn about all the new features we’ve enabled with Silverlight 8.1.

Microsoft has also come up with new APIs for applications that integrate with its Azure cloud platform and with Office 365. The Authentication library for Azure Active Directory lets you build both Windows and mobile applications that authenticate against Azure Active Directory, used by every Office 365 deployment. There is also talk of using Azure for Connected Devices, meaning “Internet of Things” devices using Azure services.

Some other sessions which caught my eye:

Connected Productivity Apps: building apps for the SharePoint and Office 365 platform.

What’s new in WinJS: the road ahead. XAML vs HTML/JS is a big decision for Windows developers.

Anders Hejlsberg on TypeScript

Automating Azure: “The Azure Management Libraries and Azure PowerShell Cmdlets allow this type of automation by providing convenient client wrappers around the Azure management REST API”

Authentication library for Azure Active Directory: The Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL)

Panel discussion on desktop development: is there a future for WPF? Maybe some clues here.

Miguel de Icaza gets a session on going mobile with C# and Xamarin. I recall when de Icaza ran sessions on Mono, the open source implementation of the .NET Framework which he initiated shortly after Microsoft announced .NET itself, in nearby hotels at Microsoft events; now he is inside.

Learning from the mistakes of Azure: Mark Russinovich on what can go wrong in the cloud.

Looks like both cloud and apps for Windows Phone/Windows 8 are big themes at Build this year.

Microsoft scraps Expression Web and Design, blends Blend with Visual Studio

Microsoft is giving up its long effort to compete with Adobe in the design tools space. The Expression range of products is being discontinued, in favour of enhanced design capabilities in its developer-focused Visual Studio. Blend for Visual Studio continues, as a design tool for Windows Store apps and Windows Phone apps. A future edition of Blend for Visual Studio, currently in preview, will add WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), Silverlight, and SketchFlow support. The release version of this upgraded edition is promised for Visual Studio 2012 Update 2.

The new product plans are announced here:

Microsoft is consolidating our lead design and development offerings — Expression and Visual Studio — to offer all of our customers a unified solution that brings together the best of Web and modern development patterns.

Expression Web, the web design tool which evolved out of FrontPage, and Expression Design, a vector drawing tool, will be discontinued completely. Microsoft’s web design tool will now be Visual Studio.

One consequence of this decision is that Expression Web 4 and Expression Design 4 are now free downloads, though unsupported.

Expression Encoder, for converting media for streaming, is also being discontinued, though Expression Encoder Pro will remain on sale throughout 2013. Microsoft says it is still investing in format conversion as part of Windows Azure Media Services.

Is this a good decision? In one sense it is a shame, since Expression Web is a decent product. At least one longstanding user of the product is disappointed:

For Microsoft, the web is dying and the future lies in Windows 8 apps. When asked what we web developers should be doing the answer was the same: Make Windows 8 apps. Which is about as useful as telling a contractor to start erecting tents instead of houses because houses are no longer relevant. Anyone outside the reach of whatever reality distorting force field they have running at the Redmond campus can see how idiotic this is, but that hasn’t stopped the people in charge for pulling the plug on one of the few applications from the company that had something new to offer.

That said, Expression Web has been available for a number of years and made little impression on the market, so how much value is there in continuing with a tool that few use, irrespective of its merits?

The decision makes sense in that Microsoft is shutting down an unsuccessful product line in order to focus on a successful one, Visual Studio.

Further, the end of Expression illustrates the difficulty Microsoft has had in attracting designers to its platform, despite high hopes in the early days of WPF and Mix conferences in Las Vegas.

Microsoft Silverlight: shattered into a million broken urls

There has been some Twitter chatter about the closure of, Microsoft’s official site for its lightweight .NET client platform. multimedia player and browser plug-in.


I am not sure when it happened, but it is true. now redirects to a page on MSDN. Some but not all of the content has been migrated to MSDN, but Microsoft has not bothered to redirect the URLs, so most of the links out there to resources and discussions on Silverlight will dump you to the aforementioned generic page.

One of the things this demonstrates is how short-sighted it is to create these mini-sites with their own top-level domain. It illustrates how fractured Microsoft is, with individual teams doing their own thing regardless. Microsoft has dozens of these sites, such as,,, and so on; there is little consistency of style, and when someone decides to fold one of these back to the main site, all the links die.

What about Silverlight though? It was always going to be a struggle against Flash, but Silverlight was a great technical achievement and I see it as client-side .NET done right, lightweight, secure, and powerful. It is easy to find flaws. Microsoft should have retained the cross-platform vision it started with; it should have worked wholeheartedly with the Mono team for Linux-based platforms; it should have retained parity between Windows and Mac; it should never have compromised Silverlight with the COM support that arrived in Silverlight 4.

The reasons for the absence of Silverlight in the Windows Runtime on Windows 8, and in both Metro and desktop environments in Windows RT, are likely political. The ability to run Silverlight apps on Surface RT would enhance the platform, and if COM support were removed, without compromising security.

XAML and .NET in the Windows Runtime is akin to Silverlight, but with enough differences to make porting difficult. There is an argument that supporting Silverlight there would confuse matters, though since Silverlight is still the development platform for Windows Phone 8 it is already confusing. Silverlight is a mature platform and if Microsoft had supported it in the Windows Runtime, we would have had a better set of apps at launch as well as more developer engagement.

I posted that Microsoft’s Silverlight dream is over in October 2010, during Microsoft’s final Professional Developers Conference, which is when the end of Silverlight became obvious. It lives on in Windows Phone, but I would guess that Windows Phone 8.5 or 9.0 will deprecate Silverlight in favour of the Windows Runtime. A shame, though of course it will be supported on the x86 Windows desktop and in x86 Internet Explorer for years to come.

A glimpse into the internal battles that set the future of Windows and .NET

A couple of posts from Hal Berenson give insight into the internal battles at Microsoft as the company worked out its strategy to rescue Windows from irrelevance in the world of mobile and tablets. Berenson is now President of True Mountain Group LLC but was formerly at Microsoft where his roles included SQL Server development and architecture, Mobile Development Tools strategy, and General Manager of Forefront identity and security products.


Berenson left Microsoft in October 2010, but by that time the strategy behind Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 would have been in place.

According to Berenson, there were two core options for evolving Windows. There may have been others, but the heart of it is this: what to do with .NET. One option was to make .NET the app model for Windows, which is what was planned for the original Longhorn, before it was reset and became the less radical update that was Windows Vista. The other was to create a new app model based on native code. Steven Sinofsky, the Windows President, chose the latter, which is why .NET is only one of three options for programming the new tablet personality in Windows 8. This meant going down the opposite path from that of Windows Phone 7, which has an entirely .NET-based programming model.

You may recall from other sources that Steven Sinofsky has never been known to be a .NET fan.  While others within Microsoft, and even senior people in the (pre-Windows 8) Windows organization, wanted to move to an entirely .NET app model for Windows Steven did not.  He (and others fyi) wanted to re-engage the native code C++ developers that Microsoft had been neglecting.  And they wanted to co-opt the huge base of web developers to create apps for the Windows platform.  Well, what had the Windows Phone guys done?  They’d implemented a .NET only app platform.  Could the Windows Phone app platform evolve to address the native and web developers?  Sure.  But with no existing library of apps and a desire not to have .NET-centric platform at the core of Windows Sinofsky apparently felt pretty comfortable ignoring the Windows Phone team’s work.

This goes a long way to explain the puzzlement many of us experienced when it transpired that having created in Windows Phone 7 the basis for a touch-friendly operating system that could easily be extended to larger form factors such as tablets, Microsoft chose instead to do a new thing entirely for its tablet strategy.

One take on this is that Berenson’s account illustrates the chaos at Microsoft. Windows Phone was created in a mad hurry in reaction to the iPhone and the ascendance of touch UIs, reusing pieces of .NET, Silverlight and Zune to bring something to market quickly. Then the company’s next move was not to build on that, but to throw it away, even in the context of a mobile and device revolution that was and is a huge threat to its core business. And where was CEO Steve Ballmer in all of this?

The other take though is how this shows the determination and strategic focus of Windows boss Steven Sinofsky. He did not believe that rebuilding the Windows user interface on .NET would save it, with the Longhorn experiment no doubt a factor in that conviction, so he refused to go down that path again, despite the cost in terms of time and, perhaps more seriously, the impact on the developer ecosystem. Microsoft platform developers were asked first to bet on .NET and Silverlight, and now to bet on this new thing the Windows Runtime, and many are disillusioned or even angry. A hard decision; but putting long term strategy ahead of the immediate demands of your customers may be the right thing, in fact the only right thing.

Berenson also confirms what many of us have always assumed: that the removal of the Start menu on the Windows 8 desktop is all about making the new personality in Windows hard to avoid:

The Start menu, and indeed the entire desktop, are legacies that will have to be removed from Windows over time.  While the desktop itself is probably with us for a couple of additional major Windows releases (though there may be truly desktop-free editions sooner than that) the start menu was something that Steven has bet he could get away with not bringing forward into Windows 8.  By doing so he forces users to start living in the new usage paradigm rather than totally avoiding it.  Yes you can still set up a system to avoid leaving the desktop most of the time.  But you can’t avoid the new world completely.  In doing so he sets people up to eventually accept systems without the desktop at all (or at least Windows RT systems for personal use even if they need the desktop at work, for example).

Personally I no longer miss the Start menu; but its absence is certainly a barrier to adoption for Windows 8, as new users struggle to navigate the operating system.

Note: Berenson has kindly commented below. Note his point that merely working at Microsoft does not give you detailed knowledge of all decisions made there.

Adobe Flash in Windows 8 Metro, but not technically a plug-in

Today’s Windows 8 rumour is that Adobe Flash will be baked into Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8, not only in the desktop edition but also in Metro.

Until this is confirmed by Microsoft, it is only a rumour. However, it seems likely to me. The way this rumour mill works is:

  • Some journalists and book authors working closely with Microsoft already have information on Windows 8 that is under non-disclosure.
  • Some enthusiast sites obtain leaked builds of Windows 8 and poke around in them. Unlike new Mac OS X releases, Windows builds are near-impossible to keep secure because Microsoft needs to share them with hardware partners, and mysteriously copies turn up on on the Internet.
  • When an interesting fact is leaked, this allows those journalists and book authors who already have the information to write about it, since most non-disclosure agreements allow reporting on what is already known from other sources.

That is my understanding, anyway. So when you read on that Flash is in IE10 you may be sceptical; but when Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera report the same story in more detail, you can probably believe it.

Back to the main story: presuming this is accurate, Microsoft has received Flash source code from Adobe and integrated it into IE10, in a similar manner to what Google has done with Flash in Chrome. This means that Flash in IE10 is not quite a plug-in. However, on the Metro side the inclusion of Flash is apparently a compatibility feature:

So, Microsoft has extended the Internet Explorer Compatibility View list to include rules for popular Flash-based web sites that are known to meet certain criteria. That is, Flash is supported for only those popular but legacy web sites that need it. This feature is not broadly available for all sites.

say Thurrott and Rivera, though I presume this only applies to the Metro IE10 rather than the desktop version.

Does this make sense? Not altogether. Oddly, while I have heard plenty of criticism of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I have not heard many objections to the lack of Flash in Metro IE. Since Apple does not support Flash on iOS, many sites already provide Flash-free content for tablet users. Further, on the x86 version of Windows 8 there is an easy route to Flash compatibility: just open the site in the desktop browser.

That said, there is still plenty of Flash content out there and being able to view it in Windows 8 is welcome, especially if you can make your own edits to the compatibility list to get Flash content on less well-known sites. My guess is that Microsoft wants to support Flash for the same reason Android devices embraced it: a tick-box feature versus Apple iOS.

One further thought: this is a sad moment for Silverlight, if Microsoft is supporting Flash but not Silverlight on the Metro side of Windows 8.

Hands on: building an app for Windows 8 Metro

How difficult is it to build an app for the Windows Runtime (WinRT), which powers Metro-style apps in Windows 8?

Here is how I created a simple calculator app (this is one in an occasional series) using Visual Studio 11 beta. I started with a new Visual C# Windows Metro Style project, choosing a blank template.


A slight complication is that you are prompted to install a Developer License, which means logging into your Windows Live account.


Next, I had to layout the controls. Visual Studio creates a single-page app with a main page called BlankPage.xaml. I renamed this to Calc.xaml. I also used Visual Studio’s refactor menu to rename the page class from BlankPage to Calc.


The default application has a black background, which seems gloomy. I changed the Background of the container grid to white.

My basic calculator design is based on six rows and four columns, so I added 6 RowDefinitions and 4 ColumnDefinition to the XAML grid. The units for RowDefinitions and ColumnDefinitions can be set to Auto, Pixel or Star. Star means the unit is a weight which is calculated at runtime. For example, if you set the value of one RowDefinition.Height to 2 and the others to 1, the first one would be twice as high as the others. Here is my basic grid:


Next, I placed controls in the grid. The easiest way to get them to fill the space neatly is to set their HorizontalAlignment and VerticalAlignment properties to Stretch. Then you control the margin round the control with the Margin property. You can have a control fill more than one cell by using the Grid.ColumnSpan and Grid.RowSpan properties.

I found it easier to add the controls in code using copy and paste.


A Grid has no FontSize property, and although the Page has a FontSize property it does not seem to be inherited by the controls. I therefore set the FontSize individually for each control but there must be a better way of doing this.

I then wrote minimal code that performs calculations without always crashing, and tested the app.  When you debug, you can choose Local Machine, Simulator, or Remote Machine. I found it easier to debug using the simulator, since if you use Local Machine and Visual Studio is running on the main display, then the app you are debugging becomes invisible if you hit a breakpoint or exception. The simulator seems really good (it is actually a remote session into your own machine) and I would like some way of running all Metro apps in a window like this, not just for debugging!


A few reflections

A developer with experience of C# and XAML (which is also used by Windows Presentation Foundation and by Silverlight) will not have much trouble getting started with WinRT, though I noticed that XAML is substantially cut-down, as Patrick Klug observes here.

Visual Studio 2011 is an excellent IDE although I do not much like the new property editor; a minor point, but I find the latest go at prettification detrimental to usability; it is too busy. This may be a matter of familiarity and it is a minor point.


The XAML visual designer is slow to refresh even with my simple app, so this could be annoying with a more complex layout.

Layout with XAML works well, though it is more difficult than say Windows Forms for a new developer. It is easy to get peculiar results unless you do everything with pixel layout, which is not the best approach.

What about Metro itself? Apps always run full screen, and I had a problem with this in that my little calculator does not need all that space.


I am not a designer; and I suppose with a bit of effort you could add some decoration or effects to use the space, or add extra features. But why?

I was thinking about the Atari ST the other day, following the death of Jack Tramiel. The ST did not really multitask, but to get around the problem of needing to run a second app without closing the first, it had the concept of desktop accessories, available from a pull-down menu. My calculator would work well as a desktop accessory in Metro, except there is no such concept – unless you count the “Snap” split view. I wonder if Microsoft is too religious about its “Immersive UI” concept.

A few reservations then; but that does not take away from the overall impression of a strong integrated development experience for building Metro-style apps.

Windows Phone and Windows 8 convergence: a few more hints from Microsoft

The moment when Nokia is in the midst of the US launch for its Lumia 900 phone, which both Nokia and Microsoft hope will win some market share for Windows Phone 7, is not the best time to talk about Windows Phone 8 from a marketing perspective. Especially when Windows Phone 8 will have a new kernel based on Windows 8 rather than Windows CE, news which was leaked in early February and made almost official by writer Paul Thurrott who has access to advance information under NDA:

Windows Phone 8, codenamed Apollo, will be based on the Windows 8 kernel and not on Windows CE as are current versions. This will not impact app compatibility: Microsoft expects to have over 100,000 Windows Phone 7.5-compatible apps available by the time WP8 launches, and they will all work fine on this new OS.

Nevertheless, Microsoft is talking a little about Windows Phone 8. Yesterday Larry Lieberman posted about the future of the Windows Phone SDK. After echoing Thurrott’s words about compatibility, he added:

We’ve also heard some developers express concern about the long term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone. Please don’t panic; XAML and C#/VB.NET development in Windows 8 can be viewed as a direct evolution from today’s Silverlight. All of your managed programming skills are transferrable to building applications for Windows 8, and in many cases, much of your code will be transferrable as well. Note that when targeting a tablet vs. a phone, you do of course, need to design user experiences that are appropriately tailored to each device.

Panic or not, these are not comforting words if you love Silverlight. Lieberman is saying that if you code today in Silverlight, you had better learn to code for WinRT instead in order to target future versions of Windows Phone.

The odd thing here is that while Lieberman says:

today’s Windows Phone applications and games will run on the next major version of Windows Phone.

(in bold so that you do not doubt it), he also says that “much of your code will be transferrable as well”. Which is equivalent to saying “not all your code will be transferrable.” So how is it that “non-transferrable code” nevertheless runs on Windows Phone 8 if already compiled for Window Phone 7? It sounds like some kind of compatibility layer; I would be interested to know more about how this will work.

I was also intrigued by this comment from Silverlight developer Morton Nielsen:

Its really hard to sell this investment to customers with all these rumors floating, and you only willing to say that my skill set is preserved is only fuel onto that. The fact is that there is no good alternative to Silverlight, and its an awesome solution for distribution LOB apps, but the experience on win8 is horrible at best. And it doesn’t help that the blend team is ignoring us with a final v5, and sl5 is so buggy it needs 100% DEET but we don’t see any GDRs any longer.

What are these acronyms? DEET just means insect repellent, ie. bug fixes. GDR is likely “General Distribution Release”; I guess Nielsen is saying that no bug-fix releases are turning up are turning up for Silverlight 5, implying that Microsoft has abandoned it.

All in all, this does not strike me as a particularly reassuring post for Windows Phone developers hoping that their code will continue to be useful, despite Lieberman’s statement that:

I hope we’ve dispelled some of your concerns

Still, it has been obvious for some time that WinRT, not Silverlight, is how Microsoft sees the future of its platform so nobody should be surprised.

Update: Several of you have commented that Lieberman talks about WinRT on Windows 8 not on Windows Phone 8. Nobody has said that WinRT will be on Windows Phone 8, only that the kernel will be the that of Windows 8 rather than Windows CE. That said, Lieberman does specifically refer to “the long term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone” and goes on to talk about WinRT. The implication is that WinRT is the future direction for Windows Phone as well as for Windows 8 on tablets. Maybe that transition will not occur until Windows Phone 9; maybe Windows Phone as an OS will disappear completely and become a form factor for Windows 8 or Windows 9. This aspect is not clear to me; if you know more, I would love to know.

Nokia results: hope for Windows Phone?

It is almost one year since Nokia’s dramatic announcement that it would transition its smartphone range to Windows Phone. Today the company released its results for the fourth quarter and for the full year 2011, the first since the release of the the Lumia range of Windows Phone devices. How it is doing?

This is one you can spin either way. The negative view: Nokia is losing money. Sales are down 21% year on year for the quarter and 9% for the full year, and the company reported an operating loss of just over a billion Euro for the year, most of which was in the last quarter.

If you look at the quarter on quarter device sales, they are down in both smart devices and mobile phones. The Symbian business has not held up as well as the company hoped:

changing market conditions are putting increased pressure on Symbian. In certain markets, there has been an acceleration of the anticipated trend towards lower-priced smartphones with specifications that are different from Symbian’s traditional strengths. As a result of the changing market conditions, combined with our increased focus on Lumia, we now believe that we will sell fewer Symbian devices than we previously anticipated.

says the press release. As for Windows Phone and Lumia, CEO Stephen Elop says that “well over 1 million Lumia devices” have been sold: a start, but still tiny relative to Apple iOS and Google Android. Elop cleverly calls it a “beachhead”, but given the energy Nokia put into the launch I suspect it is disappointed with the numbers.

Put this in context though and there are reasons for hope. First, Nokia’s speed of execution is impressive, from announcement to the first Windows Phones in nine months or so. Further, the Lumia (judging by the Lumia 800 I have been using) does not feel like a device rushed to market. The design is excellent, and within the small world of Windows Phone 7 hardware Nokia has established itself as the brand of first choice.

Second, despite the dismal sales for Windows Phone 7 since its launch, there are signs that Microsoft may yet emerge from the wreckage inflicted on the market by iOS and Android in better shape than others. WebOS has all-but gone. RIM has yet to convince us that it has a viable recovery strategy. Intel Tizen is just getting started. If Microsoft has a successful launch for Windows 8, Elop’s “third ecosystem” idea may yet come to fruition.

Third, Nokia has already shown that it is better able to market Windows Phone 7 than Microsoft itself, or its other mobile partners. Lumia made a good splash at CES in January, and the platform may gain some market share in the influential US market.

Nokia is not just Windows Phone though, and even if its smartphone strategy starts to work it has those falling Symbian sales to contend with. It will not be easy, even taking an optimistic view.

Nor will it be easy for Windows 8 to succeed in a tablet market owned by Apple at the high end and by Amazon/Android at the low end.

Why Microsoft is scrapping the MIX conference

Microsoft is scrapping its MIX conference, according to General Manager Tim O’Brien:

we have decided to merge MIX, our spring web conference for developers and designers, into our next major developer conference, which we will host sometime in the coming year. I know a number of folks were wondering about MIX, given the time of year, so we wanted to make sure there’s no ambiguity, and be very clear… there will be no MIX 2012.

O’Brien says that MIX started in the aftermath of the 2005 PDC because:

there was a lot of discussion around our engagement with the web community, and how we needed a more focused effort around our upcoming plans for Internet Explorer, the roadmap for our web platform, the work we were starting on web standards (we were shipping IE6 at the time), and so on.

That is not quite how I recall it. PDC 2005 was the pre-Vista PDC, no, not the “three pillars of Longhorn” in PDC 2003, but the diluted version of Longhorn that was actually delivered as Windows Vista. One thing Microsoft really did get around this time was that design mattered. Apple had cool design, Adobe had cool design (and a strong grip on the designer community), but Microsoft did not.

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) was intended to win designers to the Windows platform, with its graphically-rich and multimedia-friendly API. In order to do this, the company needed to win designers over to the idea of using Expression Blend rather than Adobe Flash and Photoshop.

This was doubly true when Microsoft decided to bring WPF to the browser in the form of Silverlight, a decision that was announced at PDC 2005 and expanded on at the first MIX in 2006.

One of the things I recall at the first and second MIX events were groups of bemused Flash designers who had been bussed in by Microsoft to enjoy the lights of Vegas and learn about Blend.

General web authoring was a factor as well, as Microsoft sought to bring Internet Explorer back on track and to persuade web designers of the virtues of Microsoft’s web platform.

I enjoyed the MIX events. They were small enough that you could easily get to speak both to attendees and to the Microsoft folk there, and once you allow for the fact that Vegas is Vegas, the atmosphere was good.

As an attempt to appeal to designers though, MIX was a failure. It was all too forced; many of the people attending were developers anyway; and Microsoft itself included more and more developer content in ensuing MIX events.

The 2010 MIX was hijacked by Windows Phone 7, an interesting topic but drifting far from the original intentions.

It comes as no surprise to hear than MIX is no more. It is associated with WPF and Silverlight, neither of which are now strategic for Microsoft in these days of Windows 8 and the Windows Runtime (WinRT).

That said, Microsoft still has difficulty appealing to designers.

What next then? O’Brien says:

we look ahead to 2012 and beyond, the goal is to ensure that global Microsoft developer events are of the caliber that many of you experienced at BUILD last September, in addition to the thousands of online and local developer events we host around the world to support communities and connect directly with developers. We will share more details of our next developer event later this year.


Silverlight 5 is done. Is Silverlight also done?

Microsoft has has announced the release of Silverlight 5.0.


Silverlight is a cross-platform, cross-browser plug-in for Windows and Mac. It is relatively small size – less than 7MB according to Microsoft, though the Mac version seems to be bigger, with a 14MB compressed setup .dmg and apparently over 100MB once installed:


Never mind, it is a fine piece of work and has considerable capabilities, including the .NET Framework, the ability to render a GUI defined in XAML, multimedia playback, and support for applications running inside the browser or on the desktop. New in version 5 is better H.264 performance, 3D graphics, and Platform Invoke support on Windows enabling trusted applications to call the native API. Another change is that in-browser applications can also run with full trust, again only on Windows. The cross-platform idea has become increasingly diluted.

If Microsoft had come up with Silverlight early in the .NET story it might have become a major application platform. As it is, while still useful in some contexts, the technology has been side-lined by new things including HTML 5 and the Windows Runtime in the forthcoming Windows 8.

While I have huge respect for the team which created Silverlight and rapidly improved it, it now looks a sad story of reactive technology that failed to capture sufficient developer support. Microsoft invented Silverlight when Adobe Flash looked like it might take over as a universal runtime for web applications. The outcome was that Adobe evolved Flash with renewed vigour, keeping Silverlight at bay. Then Apple invented a new platform called iOS that supported neither Flash nor Silverlight, and the whole plug-in strategy began to look less compelling. Adobe has now reduced its focus on Flash, while Microsoft has been signalling a reduced role for Silverlight since its Professional Developers Conference in October 2010.

The question now is whether there will ever be a Silverlight 6.

Microsoft itself uses Silverlight across a number of products, such as administrative consoles for various server applications. Silverlight will be around for a while yet. Of course it is also the runtime for Windows Phone 7. Visual Studio LightSwitch generates Silverlight applications, and this one I am rather sad about, because it is an interesting tool that now seems to target the wrong platform. Perhaps the team will create an HTML 5 version one day.