Microsoft sidelines Silverlight in face of HTML5 progress
Will release another version but will focus it mainly on Windows Phone 7
Published: 31 October, 2010
The rise of HTML5 and the fully functioning browser will eventually kill off the plug-in, and Microsoft seems already to have accepted that, repositioning its Silverlight platform for a far narrower role underpinning Windows Phone 7. The main rich media system, Adobe Flash, will last far longer because of its huge installed base and the fact that HTML5 still has many challenges to address. But the timing was always going to be difficult for a new technology to enter the market just when its assumptions were being questioned.
So, at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference last this week, Silverlight was hardly mentioned, while many speakers focused on Microsoft's commitment to HTML5, which CEO Steve Ballmer called the glue "facilitating a level of independence and innovation between the back end and the front end".
According to ZDnet's Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley, who interviewed Bob Muglia - the head of the server and tools business - at the conference, Silverlight's role has changed significantly. "Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone," he told her, plus some "sweet spots" in media and line-of-business applications. But the "strategy has shifted" in terms of making Silverlight the primary vehicle for delivering a cross-platform runtime.
Silverlight will work on a range of OS/browser platforms, and a new release is still in the works, but Muglia said: "HTML is the only true cross-platform solution for everything, including Apple's iOS platform."
This shows a deepening commitment to HTML5, which was signalled when Microsoft unveiled its IE9 browser in the spring, showing an advanced level of compliance with the new web standard. The firm insisted Silverlight would coexist on equal terms with HTML5, and would be the main cross-platform development framework for web, PC and mobile systems for years to come, but now its timetable has become more aggressive and its homegrown technology looks likely to be pushed almost entirely to WP7.