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Silverlight Rising

It seems like it's been forever since Microsoft first started talking about Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere (WPF/E) and its vision of a XAML-based, cross-platform media and application runtime. And while Silverlight 1 was nice, in a sort of me-too Flash media player kind of way, most developers recognized Silverlight 1 for what it was -- a vehicle for getting the all-important browser runtime bits onto millions of machines.

But with the official release to Web (RTW) of Silverlight 2 last week, .NET developers can finally get to work on robust, Silverlight-based applications that can run on a variety of platforms, systems and even (one day) devices. Far more than a slick runtime for video and animation, Silverlight 2 delivers a robust subset of the .NET Framework to client machines. The possibilities for delivering sophisticated, connected, robust business applications are truly impressive.

As Andrew Brust, Microsoft Regional Director and chief of New Technology for consulting firm twentysix New York, describes it, Silverlight significantly ups the ante for Web development.

"Silverlight is a rich Internet application environment and not a 'poor desktop' application environment," Brust wrote in an e-mail exchange. "What I mean by that is developers care less that Silverlight lacks capabilities of the full .NET Framework and care more that it provides a better user experience (especially for line-of-business and data-entry-intensive apps) than any HTML-based environment."

He's got that right. Silverlight could really look attractive to a lot of dev managers who today grapple with AJAX-based development and its inherent complexity. And while the shared XAML heritage of Silverlight and WPF offers possibilities for delivering differentiated experiences locally or over the wire, I remain concerned about the lack of Linux and other platform support in the runtime.

Yes, the open source Mono implementation of .NET is out there. And yes, Moonlight at least offers Silverlight 1 runtime support for Linux clients. But the fact is, reach is what makes Web development compelling. I wonder if the lack of native Linux support will scare many dev shops away from Silverlight 2 development.

Are you planning to look into Silverlight 2 based application development? Let us know why, or why not. E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/21/2008 at 1:15 PM


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