Silverlight's Stumble?

When Microsoft unveiled pre-release demos of Windows 8 last month, it set off an unintentional firestorm around the future of Silverlight. Revealed for the first time were Redmond's plans for supporting HTML5 and JavaScript as a native development environment in Windows 8. The scheme promises to attract a vast community of developers and open the way for development across diverse platforms, including Windows-based tablets.

Yet neither Microsoft Corporate Vice President Mike Angiulo nor Windows and Windows Live President Steven Sinofsky even mentioned Silverlight in their presentations. Asked about Silverlight support during a Q&A session, Sinofsky replied: "The browser that we showed runs Silverlight and it will still run on the desktop."

This kind of faint praise is normally a non-issue. But Silverlight, envisioned as a universal vehicle for cross-platform .NET logic, suffered a sudden course change in October, when former President of Server & Tools Business Bob Muglia said: "HTML is the only true, cross-platform solution for everything." Silverlight today is targeted at rich Windows client and Web-enabled applications, and is the primary platform for Windows Phone 7.

So, will Silverlight be a strategic part of Windows 8? At press time, Microsoft remained silent on the matter, but reports indicate that Silverlight will enable "immersive applications" via the XAML-based UI library code-named "Jupiter." It's also worth noting that Microsoft has invested untold resources ramping Silverlight from a fledgling media player runtime to its current incarnation. Advances in Windows Phone "Mango" and the Silverlight 5 beta indicate that work continues.

Still, many developers are nervous about the future of Silverlight. And until Microsoft articulates a vision, it's hard to say they shouldn't be.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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