Silverlight is just out of beta, meaning it’s officially ready for prime-time as a technology. But what about its value as an artistic tool, its intended role as a marketing engine, and its not-so-secret mission as the usurper of Adobe’s Flash?
What is Silverlight:
- It’s Microsoft’s alternative to Adobe’s Flash for RIA (rich internet applications) — for example, people can connect to a database of videos that have been made available for viewing, then browse, select and view them via Silverlight.
- It requires a browser to run in.
- Few people have the Silverlight plugin at present, but it’s fairly easy to download and install, and the plugin is both Windows and Mac compatible for the most recent generation of browsers — although you can only develop Silverlight applications in a Windows environment.
- It allows good integration between Silverlight applications and .Net platform code because it uses XAML (the same as “Windows Presentation Foundation” or WPF), it’s code can be generated using Expressions, and it’s code can be managed via Visual Studio.
- It’s not html, thus like Flash it’s not search engine friendly, not mashable, not universally compatible with mobile devices
- It’s not rich enough to be a substitute for full-on desktop applications (has many fewer features than WPF).
- Although it’s Microsoft platform developer friendly, because it uses many familiar tools and idoms, most reviewers consider it graphic designer unfriendly because it has a different design idiom than Flash (more code-like, less graphics like), and no development environment for Mac
Conclusions about the potential market for Silverlight development:
- The uses for Silverlight are not remarkably different than the uses for Flash (and the related Flex development IDE). Thus, demand for this type of technology (including Flash and Silverlight) on web sites will not change dramatically just because Silverlight has been released.
- Most web sites will continue to prefer search engine friendly / widely compatible dhtml, plus Ajax for interactivity, that is only supplemented by Flash or Silverlight for special media needs. (Note: more and more media components are being developed for use within browsers, in essence creating competition with Flash and Silverlight).
- The amount of experimentation with these technologies will increase as competition between Adobe and Microsoft makes it cheaper / easier for more developers to use both technologies.
- .Net developers who are not dyed-in-the-wool graphic artists will slowly begin using Silverlight instead of Flash for rich internet needs because it will be easier for them.
- Almost all designers already using Flash will continue to use Flash because they find it more convenient and more design-centric — more PhotoShop-like and Illustrator-like, let’s face it — and new graphic artists coming along will continue to favor Flash for the same reasons.
- Businesses who already have .Net backends will investigate the idea that Silverlight can make development faster and cheaper; if they find this to be true (keeping in mind the present difficulty finding designers, etc.) this may generate demand.
- Teams who have designers already comfortable with Flash will prefer keeping Flash because it will be easier for their designers.
- Businesses worried about online visibility will choose Flash because almost all web browsers already have some version of Flash, Silverlight is still leaving the starting gates by comparison.
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