Silverlight Transitions Continue for Developers and Microsoft

Metro fundamentals for Silverlight developers as Microsoft continues its shift to HTML/JavaScript and Windows 8.

If you haven't heard much about Silverlight lately, a few things have popped up in recent weeks that shed some light on Microsoft's vision for the technology and how to move forward.

VSM contributor Michael Crump, a Silverlight MVP and Telerik XAML evangelist, participated in a Webinar on the last week that covers "10 Things Silverlight Developers Should Know about Windows 8." Crump noted at the start of his talk, which lasts about an hour, that he frequently runs into people, who say, "I'm a Silverlight developer, now what?"

Silverlight developers can still build and deploy apps on Windows 8 in desktop mode. However, Silverlight is not supported in Windows 8 Metro mode, where apps run on top of the new Windows Runtime (WinRT). Crump offers a useful technical comparison of Silverlight and Metro development, and explains in specific terms how developers can use their XAML skills and familiarity with Silverlight to build Metro-style applications.

Most developers are aware of the high level differences between the technologies, but they may not have a handle on the intricacies when it comes to developing real world applications. The basics in a nutshell: Silverlight developers can use multiple versions of Visual Studio/.NET Framework (.NET 2.0 to .NET 4.5) and program in C#, Visual Basic and XAML. Metro development requires Visual Studio 2012/.NET 4.5 and Windows 8, and supports a wider range of languages, including C#, VB, C++, XAML, HTML and JavaScript. Metro development also requires Silverlight 5 developers to move beyond XNA, which is not supported, but they can use DirectX, notes Crump.

One key difference that Crump points out in his talk is that Silverlight was built for a mouse and keyboard (Chrome). Metro apps are primarily based on touch input (no Chrome), and according to Crump, that's why Microsoft is telling Metro developers to focus on "content over Chrome." That's just the surface of what he delves into, which is useful information that may help clear up questions that some developers have about the differences between Silverlight and Metro development. The 10 areas he covers in the Webinar include: fundamentals, application lifecycle, XML/code namespaces, WebRequest (async, await and Tasks <T>), isolated storage and file I/O, navigation ("rethink Uri"), controls (some are missing in Metro), animations, freebies and monetizing. Crump's March VSM article, "Porting a Silverlight App to a Metro-style App," addresses similar concerns about the compatibility of Silverlight code with Metro-style applications.

Many developers have been frustrated by Microsoft's communication about the future of Silverlight. In late June, IT writer Tim Anderson spoke with Microsoft Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie (the former head of the Silverlight development team, who is now in charge of the Windows Azure dev platform and ASP.NET) and wrote up highlights of the conversation in his blog, "Microsoft's Scott Guthrie on what has happened to Silverlight." Among the points of interest is Guthrie's explanation for why Microsoft decided to use HTML in place of Silverlight for the UI of the latest Windows Azure admin portal. Anderson also notes the recent support of HTML applications in Visual Studio 2012 LightSwitch, a template-based dev environment, which initially only generated Silverlight apps.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Mar 4, 2013 Rick Moss

Microsoft doesn't have a leader and never did. For years it has been without a vision or a moral backbone. Bill Gates was totally wrong about the web and tried to ignore it for years while it roared right passed Redmond.
The pure lack of leadership is where the unsteadiness comes from. They blow in any direction the market leads them. One day the market won't be there and neither will they.
I never was a religious man but do believe this:
“Where there is no vision the people perish.”
- Proverbs 29:18

I don’t intend to perish and neither should you.

(“Death by Technology” is the Truth)

Thu, Jan 3, 2013

Why not just avoid all Microsoft's overrated non-sesnse and develop with wxWidgets. wxWidgets is a great MFC type package that works in windows, Linux, and Macintosh OS's.

Sat, Sep 22, 2012 crossbow

Silverlight is an awesome, powerful technology and delivery method. I've been digging into ASP MVC, and it is nowhere close to the type-safe, core software-engineering principles of "real" OOD like WPF/Silverlight. The basic web-stack of HTML, CSS, Javascript can never replace true OOD design, at least in the near future. These technologies are mainly promoted either by theorists, developers who are not into heavy LoB-type apps, or old-school PHP and script writers who have never delved into core SDLC or design patterns, and get excited about some really basic pattern like MVC. So, hopefully Microsoft is smart enough to not turn into a Lady Gaga, submit to hype, and forego pursuit of delivery methods of real software.

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 GlobalCompe Canada

People, Desktop hardcore apps can use WPF and it is not going anywhere. Other input heavy apps won't go away either e.g. Office etc. The issue is that most people don't develop that. Enterprises have been moving to web apps for a while using predominantly html and with greater number of enterprises moving to tablets as "additional" devices SPECIALLY "EXECUTIVES", read that again "Executives a.k.a. the guys with money, power and thus decision makers" are bringing in their iPADs to work. They want enterprise apps to run on their tablets and thus Microsoft has no choice. Infact with good enterprise presence, Microsoft has a real chance to at the minimum be the "enterprise tablet" of choice. If Silverlight is a victim so be it. Also by the way, any typical developer does the whole spectrum of things i.e. server side (ASP.NET, WCF) which is .NET and also does the client (HTML, CSS, Javascript). Only one technology on client side is loosing ground. If you can do problem solving and write if, else, while, functions etc. move to HTML5 should not totally kill people. Life is tough. It is a test. Heaven is the ultimate goal, is not it? Microsoft made the right choice.

Mon, Jul 30, 2012 Joe C Chicago

I have moving toward JavaScript and HTML 5. I have been in the technology for 25 years. This move to HTML 5 is not new. I have had to relearn technologies countless times.  If you are in the tech  field you have to change. Microsoft, is losing ground if they do not change the rest of the world will.   The problem I see is the lack of training on the job. Developers are required to learn  new technologies on their own time.  This is why I have seen 90% of the people I started with, find new careers. As long as the companies can shop around the world for developers, They will, and replace you as fast as they can for as cheap as they can.  No field I know requires this much retraining, just to have your skill set become obsolete after 4 years.   I can say if I had to do life over and were a young man or woman,I would become a nurse or a doctor, or other type of engineer.  This is the reason you see young people in the field, once they get older and want a family, or a life, other then 18 hr day behind a computer, they have to get out.   My point do not complain just learn and adapt or get out. The days of a unions, and on the job training, are history.  We are in a new word with a billion people ready to take your job. And corporations that will cut you as fast as they can find a cheaper replacement.  Your not worth what you have learned your only worth what it cost to replace you.  Unless your wealthy, or have a union to protect you, hit the books or find a new career, because it's only going to go down hill from here. 

Sun, Jul 22, 2012

Silverlight is still the right LOB development UI. I don't see corporates moving to windows 8 soon. Also Microsoft are supporting Silverlight 5 for the next 10 years. Ok I agree there maybe no SL 6, but SL 5 pretty much has everything I need

Thu, Jul 19, 2012 Daniel London

I have believed all the hype for Silverlight, worked hard, bought books and took training courses. I became a good Silverlight developer and sold my skills. Now I am going to put the same effort and enthusiasm into moving my skills over to Metro.
Like F@%& I Am.
If you believe I will be working hard developing for you new platform, making you look good Mr Microsoft. I have got a nice bridge here in London you might like to buy!!!

Wed, Jul 18, 2012 Jose Los Angeles

First of all, I don't dislike HTML5 or new "technologies." But, when unproven hype is replacing proven technology...that is another issue (beta vs VHS). Microsoft's HTML 5 strategy reminds me of the character Donovan from Indiana Jones, the Last Crusade. He is looking for the Holy Grail among many cups. They select a gilded cup encrusted in jewels "fit for king." (They think HTML 5 is the Grail). When Donovan drinks from it, he rapidly dies, decays and crumbles into dust. Indiana Jones (That's us), recognizing that the Grail would be that of a humble carpenter instead of a wealthy king, selects a wooden cup in the group, which turns out to be the correct vessel. Silverlight works, it solves our problems and is proven. HTML 5 is a spector of "propective hope" because it is hyped to be the Grail. Microsoft already had it's Holy Grail (It's dedicated MS developers), it just does not know how to embrace them. After Bill Gates stepped down, the company went down too. Microsoft is now in favor of a bunch of generic device whores who will dump you the moment they see another company with the latest "social network hype", They have little passion for Microsoft, only passion to flood the social networks with their ad-revenue apps and generic one-app fits all ideology. In a world of HTML5/Javascript, how do you define a Microsoft developer? Will it be the Metro Developer? Wait, that's HTML5/Javascript. That includes webmaster Susan who works only on iPads and Jimmy who writes Android apps. The VB/C# people that have been banished to the "desktop" emulator? They plan to get rid of that too? How about adopting Objective-C in the VS 2014 to attract the Mac developers to spend time writing apps for a Microsoft Phone?... My frustration is with the decision makers at Microsoft. You can't be a leader if you have removed all that defines you as an individual. I leave them with a quote by Herbet B. Swoope: "I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: which is: Try to please everybody."

Tue, Jul 17, 2012 Calgary

"Many developers have been frustrated by Microsoft's communication about the future of Silverlight." Ha Ha!! Good one! How about "lack of communication."

Tue, Jul 17, 2012 Jason

I'm getting tired of the mantra that the Metro development is essentially the same as Silverlight development. There was a lot more to Silverlight than simply XAML and C# (or whatever .NET language you prefer). It encompassed a delivery and deployment model as well and I don't hear anyone talking about the loss of that with the loss of Silverlight. I could care less if my LOB Silverlight applications run in Metro, they generally aren't designed for tablets and mobile devices anyway. I can use HTML for that purpose and gain better cross device compatibility. With Silverlight I was able to develop a LOB application and deploy it across the internet without having to worry about hardware requirements (for the most part), or developing an install application, or about delivering updates. I could also run applications on a Mac (and I was looking forward to Moonlight becoming more robust). All of that is lost with Silverlight being abandoned and the only response I ever hear anyone say is that the XAML and .NET skills are transferrable to WinRT and Metro. Screw that! That’s a dumb comparison and it only holds weight if one assumes that the demise of the desktop is looming and that everyone will be running Windows 8. I'll believe the former point when Microsoft develops a version of visual studio that is full featured, easy to use and runs on a tablet. The only conclusion that I can come up with is that if Microsoft continued to develop Silverlight, it would undercut the lucrative App Store paradigm being adopted on mobile devices since they are trying to converge their OS platform across form factors. That doesn't explain why they would drop Silverlight entirely from desktops unless they are also intending to drop the whole desktop as well.

Tue, Jul 17, 2012

Its hard to argue with the previous comment - I'm tired of jumping platforms at a whim. When will Microsoft jump ship on HTML5? Probably not far off in the future.

Tue, Jul 17, 2012

Redmond's continuing decline is entirely of their own making - hey can put as much lipstick on the pig as wish, but for those of us that matter, HTML5 is of no interest, Windows 8 looks increasingly like a far greater debacle than Vista and it's still 'SILVERLIGHT OR NOTHING' out here in the real world. Get back to us when someone with a clue in Redmond wants to talk with us about Silverlight 6 - until then, piss off - we're too busy moving to other platforms to listen to your nonsense...

Sat, Jul 14, 2012 Mike Bluestein

You can use MonoGame for XNA development in Win RT.

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