Silverlight vs. HTML 5

It is time for me to jump on bandwagon of discussing the latest comments out of Microsoft regarding Silverlight.  If you have not read the latest commend by Bob Muglia, Microsoft VP, you can read his interview with Mary-Jo Foley here.  One particular paragraph bothers me a ton:

Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone,” he said. Silverlight also has some “sweet spots” in media and line-of-business applications, he said.


I am seriously bugged by this maybe unintentional dismissal of Silverlight as development platform for web applications.  I have been holding the following opinion on the subject for quite some time.  I think for public facing web sites Silverlight maybe not be an ideal fit since it increases the barrier of entry for consumers.  However, for internal business applications and B2B applications it is a great fit.  This is primary because you have pretty good control in business environment and you can very easily ensure that all computers have Silverlight installed.  Thus, Silverlight plugin simply becomes a prerequisite for such applications.  I have been developing B2B applications in Silverlight for over 2 years, and have not seen any problems with this approach until Bob Muglia’s comment.  Based on my personal experience, you can delivery better applications faster in Silverlight vs. traditional web technologies such as APS.NET.  Granted, you have a learning curve to overcome, but isn’t this the case with any technology?  If one is in software business, studying becomes an essential part of one’s carrier. 

Let’s take the following hypothetical situation. You are a software company that developed a Silverlight B2B application over the course of a couple of years.  You are successfully selling it.  All of a sudden your competitor with an inferior product, which is developed using ASP.NET reads the comment above.   They immediately incorporate this fact into their marketing approach, costing your sales.  You can see how a relatively small comment can cause a company that spent millions in development costs a multimillion dollar sale.

I do not think Silverlight is going away by any stretch of imagination.  It is and will remain a great platform for web based business applications.  However, it would be more than necessary for Microsoft to clear the air and do so with a sense of urgency.  I do not believe that dismissive attitude toward Silverlight is correct, and probably was an unintended consequence of stressing the importance of HTML 5 for Microsoft.


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