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Silverlight: The SkyDrive is (not) Falling!

Microsoft this week unveiled an updated version of its SkyDrive cloud storage and file sharing service, which had previously been based on Silverlight. SkyDrive now employs an HTML5 interface.

Predictably, the announcement ignited fresh speculation that Silverlight is as good as dead. Stop me if you've heard this before.

Not helping matters has been the stony silence coming out of Microsoft. As Redmond Developer News Editor Kathleen Richards noted in her RDN Express blog (Unexpected Drama: Windows 8 and Silverlight), Microsoft's lack of communication around Silverlight has created a charged environment. For now, developers are being told to wait for the BUILD conference in September for word on Silverlight's direction.

Are developers convinced that support for programming environments is a zero-sum game? Must Microsoft's support for a true, cross-platform programming target in HTML5 come at the expense of its support for a closed, yet powerful programming target in Silverlight? I mean, Microsoft has done just fine promoting and evolving ASP.NET MVC alongside Silverlight/WPF. And it has for a decade evolved C# and Visual Basic. And don't even get me started on the company's long history developing multiple, concurrent operating systems.

Microsoft has certainly shown that it can do two things at the same time.

Scott Hanselman, in a recent blog post on the release of the Web Standards Update for Visual Studio, which improves HTML5 tooling and support, wrote: "I didn't mention Silverlight because it has nothing to do with Silverlight. I said once, 'Just because your favorite technology isn't mentioned in a keynote doesn't mean it's dead.' Assume that the same rule applies to a Blog Post."

Hanselman makes a good point, even as he misses a larger issue. Developers aren't worried because Silverlight wasn't mentioned at a keynote. They are worried because the vision around Silverlight has gone squirrely, even as Microsoft itself has gone silent. Programming platforms are like any investment. Their value is entirely wrapped up in "what's next." And right now, a lot of people are not at all convinced they know "what's next" with Silverlight.

So is the HTML5-enabled update of SkyDrive a sign that Silverlight is doomed? Not at all. But until developers get some clarity on Silverlight, it's hard to blame them for being concerned.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/22/2011 at 1:15 PM

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