Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week or two, I can’t imagine that you’ve missed the conundrum that Microsoft’s STB President Bob Muglia has created.
All around the blogosphere bloggers have started to ponder whether Microsoft has abandoned Silverlight etc. Microsoft responded fast with a post from Bob Muglia on the Silverlight Blog Team, claiming that we didn’t really mean to create such a fuss; Silverlight is and will be the best technology for creating RIA applications over the web, and for Line of Business applications no one can argue that there is a better solution nowadays.
It seems that Microsoft was surprised by the amount of hysteria around the Silverlight Community, and Microsoft Israel’s Guy Burstein has also published a post saying that Silverlight is not abandoned nor dead.
However, this is hardly the point. For me, what is disappointing in this whole story is that Microsoft is choosing to play it safe, instead of trying to lead the revolution. Here’s why:
1. Silverlight is not dead and nothing had actually changed
All that Microsoft had said is that they abandoned the idea that HTML will be replaced eventually by Silverlight. As most of us had already noticed, Silverlight’s penetration to the wide audience (63% v3 and above) is still way behind Flash (reportedly 96% v9 and above).
It might seem that MS are just accepting the hard truth. But it’s not being realistic, It’s being pessimistic for no real reason.
Microsoft is saying that when it comes to a true cross-platform technology, nothing is going to be able to win over the open HTML5.
Open is good. I want to be able to write once and target everything. It has never been done before, and as time marches ahead this problem becomes more and more concerning, seeing the evolvement of the Smart Phones and Smart Devices.
But if open is what you’re looking for – why HTML5? Why not make Silverlight 5 completely open?
2. HTML 5 Solves nothing, and it’s already outdated.
Truth be told, I cannot understand the hype around HTML5.
If we want to build a true RIA applications, JS simply does not cut it. When compared to high level languages such as C# it is lacking in every aspect possible. Language features are decades behind C# 4, Not to mention that C# (& Silverlight) has Visual Studio 2010 – The best IDE in the world… What exactly are we supposed to write JS in?
More than that. The markup language that is associated with JS – HTML5 – is also stuck in the past. HTML5 has yet to be accepted by the web community and already it is not up to date!
So yeah, we can now do <Media> tags. Yippee. But what about Adaptive Steaming?(Smooth Streaming in MS’s lingo). What about true VOD experience? and protected DRM?
Even when it comes to the most hyped out feature of HTML5, the Media tag, it is already light years behind Flash & Silverlight!
Let me make my point clear; These HTML5 problems are not going to disappear when HTML6 / JS4 will come. The open W3C standards are always going to be behind commercial technologies such as Flash & Silverlight. Just look at the Silverlight’s last version’s features: Out of browser applications, COM inter-op, Elevated Permissions… All from v3 to v4 in just about 6 months!
Just think what would it take for HTML6 to allow this functionality. First it would take 4 years of the W3C bureaucrats to decided.. then one more year for the next versions of all of the browsers to accept the standard.. and then just 10 more years for the users to decide they want to download and install the latest version (when so many are still using IE6 :-S). I don’t know about you guys, but 15 years from now I’m expecting Warp Technology, not HTML6 🙂
One last point in the HTML5 coffin: If you want total cross platform you should indeed stick to HTML. That is, HTML 4.
HTML5 is as proprietary as Silverlight if not more in the PC market. Only in one area does HTML5 have a true advantage over Silverlight when it comes to market penetration – The Smart Phones.
The two most prominent mobile OSs today, iOS & Android, do not support Silverlight, and are actively pushing HTML5 forward. Rest assured though. Google and Apple are not in it for the “open standard”. They are in it for the money.
The current hype of HTML5 is not coming from the web community. It is coming from the bullying of the new tough kid in the block, Steve Jobs.
Apple’s fight against Flash (and Silverlight) is not about Open web standards. That is just why Apple would want you to think. And sadly, Microsoft is biting the bait, instead of fighting back with the oh-so-cool Windows Phone 7 (which is SOO much easier for programmers than iOS & the dreaded Objective C)
Microsoft should not cave to Apple & Google. They should push back.
3. What should Microsoft be doing?
It’s easier to just play it safe and tell everybody that “we never really tried to change the industry”. When you don’t play to win, no one can say that you lost.
However, what I expect of Microsoft is to be innovative. To speak up and say what everybody else knows – true RIA development is not possible with HTML5/JS3 and that is not going to change anytime soon. The solution lies elsewhere.
I would like to see Microsoft declare that Silverlight would become an open standard, completely open source. I would like to see Microsoft take a real stand and say that “yes, we do think that Silverlight should replace HTML, and yes, we do think that HTML should be abandoned”.
It’s a hard battle against two of the most powerful companies in the world today, but hey – every programmer that is sick and tired of HTML & JS will be right there behind you 🙂
And on a personal note;
I’ve been a programmer since a very young age. I’ve programmed in practically every GUI technology out there. MFC, VB, QT, Asp, Flash, ASP.Net, Winforms, WPF, Silverlight.
I’m a programmer because I love it. I love building software. Never had it been more fun than with WPF & Silverlight. I believe in Silverlight very much. I just hope that Microsoft would believe in it also.