November 4, 2010

On Microsoft and Silverlight

Last week saw a significant debate around Microsoft PDC announcements and the push towards HTML5, rather than Silverlight.

Last week saw a significant debate around Microsoft PDC announcements and the push towards HTML5, rather than Silverlight. Here are a few links (in case you haven't read much about the topic) with personal comments. Before I get to those, however, let me state that I have a distinctive impression that Microsoft has a real lack of direction these days, and even at a recent conference with many Microsoft speakers I notice way more criticism towards the company than the average (which is quite low), but also totally different suggestions on the actual solution. That's not a good sign for me.

But let me get back to the commented links:

  • The first article predates the Silverlight discussion but it is very interesting for the Delphi camp. Tim Anderson wrote about " Lessons From Evernotes Flight From .Net ": the company moved one of the few WPF tools out there back to native Windows, using Visual C++. Of course, they should have rather used Delphi, to keep using the higher level and more sophisticated VCL model, rather than MFC, but the key point here is taht there are companies moving back from .NET client to native Windows. Certainly interesting, even if probably not a trend (also because native .NET clients are quite limited in numbers).
  • Later, Tim wrote about Silverlight Dream Is Over , reporting from PDC the impression that Silverlgiht was notably missing, that Bob Muglia had mentioned a "strategy shift" to HTML5. A significant comment is that "if Microsoft itself is downplaying Silverlight’s role, it will tend to push developers towards Adobe Flash". Notice that over the last week there were even rumors about deals (or even a merger) between Adobe and Microsoft, and it is easy to guess that Silverlight vs. Flash might be part of it. In general, though, while Flash is gaining more and more platforms (including phone platforms), Microsoft is focused on Windows, Mac, and Windows Phone. Too little.
  • A second post from Tim from PDC was "Microsoft big on Azure, quiet on Silverlight": Microsoft demonstrated HTML5 Canvas hardware acceleration and has apparently the most HTML5 compatible browser: this is a big shift!
  • A separate personal comment is that using the keynote at SDC in the Netherlands, which focused on Silverlight, i had once more the distinct impression that too many Silverlight success stories relate to video streaming. Which is interesting, but it is also what HTML5 is really likely to kill...
  • Julian Bucknall of DevExpress (long time Delphi friends, but active producer of Silverlight components) has a blog post about the same topic, and like 100s of other blog post, "A Story for Halloween: Is Silverlight a Zombie". Julian comments: "WPF and Silverlight were two of the future tracks for .NET (the third being ASP.NET MVC) at PDC. Failure of either or both , will mean that .NET’s future will be tied to ASP.NET MVC". I'd say too little for a platform that was supposed to revolutionize development.
  • An official Microsoft blog post on " The Future of Silverlight " tried to do soem demage control and give a different spin to the whole matter, basically pointing out that HTML5 and Silverlight can work in parallel. Discussing standards versus "innovation", they claim HTML5 is adding support for features previously provided by plugins, later covering areas in which HTML5 won't be good enough. But this is very weak, and is can be read as "mission accomplished", so we can now drop or reduce the role of Silverlight. The excuse that you need out of browser applications is very weak, given there are other options and they don't address most phones, where applications are more and more popular. I'm biased but don't think Silverlight is the best replacement for a native Delphi Windows application.
  • I found a very interesting comment in a reply to the blog post by a "former internal Silverlight developer at Microsoft", The Rise and Fall of Microsoft UX , saying that "I’ve been saying to a colleague that MS has an inconsistent strategy for years. Its like they have the classic “too big” syndrome where they have so many autonomous divisions with differing visions of the future, yet to the outside world they look schizophrenic." This is 100% my position. I don't know if Silverlight is alive or dead, if there will be further investments or not. But I don't care. If Microsoft changes stratagy every could of years (also within the ASP.NET realm), I won't suggest to many of my clients to do a two-years development project on any of these platforms, there are just too many chances that the technology will be obsolete before they ship. Truly native HTML can be hard, but it will certainly last longer and be a much better long-terms investment. The same can be said for most work you do in Delphi (but certainly not all of it).
  • Finally, one of the best post I've read is "Silverlight Shenigans" by Ian Smith. One of the key points is "Yes, HTML5 and JavaScript do suck somewhat. The tooling isn't there either. And the real mistake Microsoft have made in rushing to announce the 'change in strategy' is that they've done so too early. The tools aren't there for HTML5, Microsoft haven't got them in place, and are clearly some significant time way from having them in place."

Having written comments to the individual link, there is not much I have to add... other then reiterate that Microsoft seems to be lacking vision and long term support for its technologies. After dropping all possible Java support, VisualFox Pro (still a rather lively platform), the dynamic languages on top of .NET, moving their bloggers to WordPress, and not down playing the role of Silverlight, the overall trust in the development story at Microsoft is getting to a new low. But that's a personal opinion, of course.




On Microsoft and Silverlight 

Excellent comments Marco, and I agree on the position
that MS seems to be caught in a revolving door, not
quite knowing which exit to take.

Silverlight is interesting but MS have too much
history of binning previous "next big things". I'm
staunchly against .Net in general, and the successive
breaking releases of the .Net framework have only gone
to prove me right and make life harder for .Net
developers, and for MS to sell it as a stable platform.

They've gambled big time by making Silverlight the
requirement for Windows Phone 7 apps, it remains to be
seen whether this gamble saves Silverlight, or kills
the Windows Phone.
Comment by Jason Sweby [] on November 4, 10:53

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

Marco - is it simply possible that the times of 
categorzing into APIs are finally over;)

I personally just think, they don't want to make 
something wrong ... when launching the Phone ... 

SL: For me the Line Of Business thing (this year in 
spring) had little more to do with having XP spread 
but no (.net 4.x available for XP and now I don't if 
really a lot better wit SP SVP 4).

I can imagine that M$ answer to - not to decide for 
the wrong technology - is to have no. Which leaves a 
bad taste on sthg. that is an interesting path in the 
future ... 
Comment by Michael Thuma on November 4, 11:03

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

 Interesting that I had "Is Silverlight Dead?" on my Blog several 
weeks ago. Main point was that I really don't see substantial 
Silverlight apps and that even MS does not use it where it could - I 
mentioned their Office for Web solution - which is plain old 

i got many opinoins that SL has its own market and would be doing 
just fine  - it looks like MS now realized it's not ;) 
Comment by Olaf Monien [] on November 4, 11:45

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

I am not worried. I am sure Embarcadero will duly 
follow MS in every mistake it does.
Comment by Luigi D. Sandon on November 4, 12:03

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

And I find this lines very interesting: "The trouble 
is, even version 3.5 of WPF was not the first 
version, and it never sounds altogether convincing 
if, when a customer complains about your product, you 
tell them everything is fine in the latest and 
greatest build. Why did Microsoft not get this right 

Change WPF with some Delphi technology, MS with 
Embarcadero, and this applies perfectlty to what 
happens everytime someone complains about something 
not working as it should in Delphi.
Comment by Luigi D. Sandon on November 4, 12:10

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

Seems to me that Tim Anderson is just willing 
Silverlight to fail, few others seem to keep 
repeating this mantra the way he does.

Native code will not die anytime soon and neither 
will .net. People have been slow to adopt 
WPF/Silverlight because it is a big change from what 
they were used to, but it is a great platform for 
tomorrows hardware. Once all the hype about HTML dies 
down, we'll see what it really provides in real life.
Comment by George24 on November 4, 12:56

Think to Ars Review - It's all about vision 

I think that conclusions are wrong. Silverlight I
think that is a better technology developer wise but
is not proven designer wise.
In the same scale I don't think that no technology
dies as of today or tomorrow that fast. I can say
Visual Basic 6, Delphi 7, Visual C 6, it does not
matter than NONE do include support for unicode
strings, they are all alive.
WPF in general is a good experimenting technology of
MS (which right now tends to mature) that made it's
place at least in developer's new software. Some
things that we take for granted in WPF: theming,
declarative UI via Xaml, accelerated UI, will be a
part of Qt Quick (language will be named QML but will
do in essence the same).
MS simply use too much mindshare with it's IE and will
"align" the the HTML5 wording, like Apple does, in
it's tests that work for Safari.
So Silverlight will become "big" with 1 year after IE9
is launched and the dust of news will be set, and SL5
will be the "next big thing"
Comment by Ciprian Mustiata [] on November 4, 13:30

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

Coming back to Luigis comment. Agree.

This all reminds me a lot of the COM times. For sure 
at somewhat higher level. These days we had specific 
products where dependent on specific .dlls that broke 
other apps ... and now somehow something similar is 
back ... from the decision makers point of view - 
which direction to choose, but now it hurts. The same 
thing for customers and ITMs -> IBM at the decease.

This is what Joel Spolsky described as fire and 
motion by MS in 2002. SAP did exactly the same during 
the last decade but a lot more and better - in 
Garfield's word: If you cannot convince them (the 
customers), confuse them. SAP did something funny, 
the sperated their products into commercial view and 
technical view where technical releases/versions of 
bundeled parts formed a version in sales speech. They 
had specific jobs that had to explain the customers 
their licencing system and every year the package 
changed as well as the licencing system ... Does this 
remind us of sthg.:)))) Vendor locked in legacy 
technologies .... 

Honestly ... I feel back in 2003 when SAP tried to 
serve the mobile via interpreted ABAP GUI 
descriptions on a virtual runtime on mobiles. No one 
wants this ... anymore.

btw: Something funny ... addon for for IE8 to render 
Comment by Michael Thuma on November 4, 13:49

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

Aside from the bad communication made at PDC, I think 
we do have some lessons to learn here. Btw, Microsoft 
announced the full adoption of HTML, not killing 
Silverlight. Some folks then speculated over that, 
but they are wrong.

1. Announcing the support for a standard it doesn't 
mean you are killing another technology.  

2. Silverlight is a huge success, installed on more 
than 60% of PCs. Considering this was the domain of 

3. Microsoft is "finally" embracing HTML5. This is a 
good news for the software industry. Only with wide 
adoption you can have success for a technology

4. Silverlight was and is being used as HTML 
substitute, and this is wrong. It is a companion of 
HTML, not a substitute.

5. Evernote moved to native coding, good. That 
doesn't mean WPF or Silverlight are bad and should be 
dismissed. It just means it was not what Everenote 
was expecting from it. 

6. Diversity diversity diversity. We all tend to say 
there must be one winning technology over the others. 
That's simply not true, there is space for everyone. 
Comment by Pierre on November 4, 15:34

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

I for my part do not like the "feel" of silveright applications. I had to 
decide between going with Silverlight or some Javascript Library a la 
ExtJs, and ExtJS just felt better, more responsive and lighter.
I prefer native for productivity apps and Google style Javascript for 
business apps.
That I don't have to install anything and that it runs on Linux (which 
is my main machine nowadays) is another added bonus. 
Comment by fritz on November 4, 19:27

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

 Hi, Marco!
You came up with interesting topic which I think will 
have a long follow-up when to choose just HTML5 and 
when enrich your web app with Silverlight (probably 
using Delphi Prism). But could you make comments feed 
available for separate blog posts?
Comment by IL [] on November 4, 20:11

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

 @Pierre "...That's simply not true, there is space for 
everyone. " -- no doubt!!

My opinion is that HTML 5 will get a great share of 
Adobe Flash's usage, we just need to give it let's say 
half of year and we're going to see HTML 5 used more 
while flash will be used less and less and less and 
less, you get the point :-)

I really hated flash all along, it uses too much CPU 
and gives back little.

Hope to see animations, video(and/or) streaming using 
HTML 5 on mobile devices soon!!  
Comment by Dorin Duminica [] on November 5, 01:33

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

Could certainly add more comments, and might blog 
further, but fully agree with the latest post by Tim 
Comment by Marco Cantu [] on November 5, 07:49

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

As I see it, the work put into the Expression tools and 
the other Silverlight and WPF tools, will most likely 
serve as a foundation for the HTML5 tools that linger in 
the pipeline.  

It makes sense to go for HTML5 on Azure and ASP.NET / 
Mono, but Silverlight still is the primary tool for 
Windows Phone 7, at least for the time being.  I have 
always had questions to why there was a split between 
WPF and Silverlight - so who knows what will pan out 
there in the future.
Comment by Lars Fosdal [] on November 5, 08:06

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

Anyone who took few moments to use their brains and 
think deeper about "Silverlight Dying" titles (used by 
bloggers to increase the traffic on the site) knows 
that Silverlight isn't going anywhere.

Silverlight will never replace the HTML and anyone who 
thought it will is pretty shallow-minded and needs to stop thinking exclusively.

Get rid of single-all-purpose-tool mindset and open 
your mind for all the tools that are available to us 
and use them in projects where they fit in the best.

The problem is that most devs are TOO LAZY to develop 
different skills for different purposes and expect the 
magic all-purpose stick. Well, the bad news is: IT'S 

With WPF, Silverlight and announced commitment to 
HTML5, MS gave us great toolbox to pick from for 
different apps that we are building.

.NET platform is not the perfect one, but with ADO.NET 
Entity Framework, WCF (and RIA Services), WPF for 
desktop, Silverlight for online LOB apps and rich 
media apps, and ASP.NET MVC for broadest reach, IT IS 
abandoning it because MS decided to extend it with 
better support for HTML5 is simply making a very 
stupid decision and doing harm to himself.

I was Delphi dev for years and now I'm primary working 
in .NET/C#. But does it mean that I can't open Delphi 
if I need to build a native app? Of course it doesn't! 
But it would be stupid to stick to Delphi and miss all 
completeness that .NET offers. 

Anyone who decide to blindly stick to one tool will be 
caught in the same situation in which CLIPPER devs 
found them selfs years ago by blindly sticking to 
their favorite tool.
Comment by Anil Mujagic [] on November 5, 09:58

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

Hi Marco,

Silverlight can´t be compared with HTML5. Look out 
there how many 3th parties like DevExpress, 
ComponentOne, TMS, Telerik and so many others are 
developing amazing components for silverlight. 

The possibility of using modern typed languages 
(including Delphi Prism!) and a modern, component 
based framework in SL is what makes it no comparable 
with HTML5. Other advantage is the design capabilities 
of Blend that has no par in HTML world. 

However, there will always be developers that need a 
more low-tech solution like HTML5. It´s the same 
difference as a developer using Java or DotNet to 
develop a Web app and many other (actually the 
majority) using dynamic, untyped languages. There are 
different tools for distinct usages. 

The problem today is that HTML is so weak and outdated 
that for making simple things like playing a video, a 
plugin is required. HTML5 will not change the fact 
that JavaScript is a weak, not typed and doesn´t have 
a standard serious template library for more 
sofisticated development.
Comment by Gustavo on November 5, 20:00

On Microsoft and Silverlight 


  sorry but I could not let this slip by. I almost 
completely disagree with you. There are very nice 
component libraries for JavaScript, on par with 
Silverlight components. JavaScript is quite a powerful 
language, although with limited tooling. You can do 
almost everything in plain web you do with plugins, but 
video (in the past...). Blend? Sorry, no. Saying HTML5 
is low-tech is quite a nonsense to me.

But you'll disagree, of course...
Comment by Marco Cantu [] on November 5, 21:20

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

Anil - Silverlight is not dying ... I think this is 
not the message ... 

I think many of the .net followers still see little 
the Windows Everywhere. Windows is not everywhere but 
far away from nowhere nor WPF/E (Silverlight) or WPF.

The only problem MS has is that .net 4 is available on 
17 - 20% of PCs only and 1,2% of the PCs per month 
move to Win7 (this is more or less the new PCs). 
Silverlight runs with WinXP SVP 2 but .net 4.x 
requires SVP 3.

This is the root cause of all this useless Silverlight 
pushing ... 

From a technical point of view I agree with you ... 
nothing will die and no one will escape because 
Windows is everywhere even now in this very room.

They simply cannot use Silverlight for the Phone - 
Phones are not updated ... after a few month you would 
into enormous problems with backward compatibility ... 
updating the server can mean updating the phone you 
are done ... This whole WCF+ Silverlight which remains 
in the end currently ... I think this was meant for 
games .... and not for LOB apps on mobiles ... this is 
half the bill.

... look into the Phone 7 store ... dessert Gobi...
Comment by Michael Thuma on November 5, 21:49

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

 is it not funny a Guy who's knowledge even not exceed ".net" write 
about silverlight? 
Comment by Windowsnative(Dinosaur) on November 10, 07:51

On Microsoft and Silverlight 

This is an response of the Silverlight future:
Comment by Claudio Piffer on November 11, 21:17

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