Oh Look, Microsoft Is De-Prioritizing Silverlight

from the who-coulda-guessed... dept

Back in August, we noted some online rumors that Microsoft was seriously cutting back on Silverlight, pushing internal folks to work on HTML5 instead. Our comments were filled with people saying that we were crazy and that Microsoft was betting more and more on Silverlight. So it’s interesting to see that, after noticing barely any mention of Silverlight at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference, Mary Jo Foley asked someone at Microsoft what’s up, and was told that Microsoft’s “strategy has shifted,” and the company is betting on HTML5 for its cross-platform efforts. It’s true that it’s still pushing Silverlight in specific platforms — with mobile being a big one (and, I’m sure, Netflix movie delivery remaining another), but it does seem like Microsoft is drastically scaling back what it plans for Silverlight.

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Companies: microsoft

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Comments on “Oh Look, Microsoft Is De-Prioritizing Silverlight”

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Pierre Wolff (profile) says:

No so fast

It does appear that the quote you’re referring to was taken out of context. I spoke w/some developers that work closely w/Microsoft who had just come back fm meeting w/them.

Here are two links talking about their plans w/Silverlight:


frosty840 says:

Seriously, Mike?

Microsoft start planning a replacement for Flash some time way back in the early 2000s, come out with a pile of very nice-looking demos in the early days, embrace open-source with the Mono and Moonlight projects, integrate Silverlight into Visual Studio, along with ASP.net, innovate all to hell and get let down by a too-conservative market who’re too busy giving their souls to Apple to sell them to Microsoft, and you think they deserve a set of smug, snarky headlines for it?
Kind of a dick move, there, sir.

HTML5 is the way to go now, sure, but Microsoft started the Silverlight project years ago in an attempt to capture the emerging media-driven market.
I’m hardly Microsoft’s biggest fan but seriously, man, give the poor souls in MS’s web development division some credit for trying, willya?

foobar (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I tend to agree. From a corporate behaviour perspective, there’s really not much more that could be asked from Microsoft on Silverlight (and by extension, .Net in general).

Unfortunately they just don’t have enough goodwill to pull it off. No one trusts them not to pull the rug out from under everyone if it takes off, so few outside the MS sphere of influence invest much into it, even though it has good potential.

If they want to build the social capital to do that sort of thing, they’ll need to show that they’re willing to be a follower of industry standards, not a leader.

Pete Austin says:

Summary of this Change


Microsoft has announced a change of direction for Silverlight. Future MS work will target Silverlight at touch-based apps for Windows 7 Phone, instead of the traditional Windows platforms and UI. Microsoft suggests that developers of cross-platform, Enterprise programs should use HTML 5 instead.

This, in effect, ends Silverlight’s life as a development platform for non-phone products. Companies will keep using it for many years, or 10s of years, but not for many new products.

I suggest that developers should act as follows:

(1) Treat Silverlight the same as other legacy Microsoft technologies, such as ASP (which is still widely used): Finish existing releases, fix bugs, then make small tactical enhancements where there’s a clear benefit. But move new client-side development away from Silverlight to HTML5 and CSS3 (as Microsoft advise).

(2) Review the use of dotNet for server-side code, because the synergy of using similar technologies for client and server development is gone. Target new server-side platform development at technologies with the best development productivity and lowest cost-to-serve, such as Python and Ruby.

– Pete Austin


Microsoft’s change of direction.

Microsoft made this change because they see danger ahead: (1) Microsoft’s market share of Desktop Operating Systems is about 90% and their share of Mobile is only about 1%, but (2) Mobile is growing very fast, for example mobile internet will be bigger than desktop internet in 5 years. Microsoft may recover a bit from their current 1% position, but they fear a long-term, market share collapse.
http://www.morganstanley.com/institutional/techresearch/pdfs/Internet_Trends_041210.pdf (PDF)

Microsoft’s only mainstream Mobile contender is Windows Phone 7


Microsoft had to react and they have chosen to switch their strategic direction to Windows Phone 7. This includes re-purposing Silverlight as the language for Windows Phone 7 apps, instead of it being a platform-neutral technology.

This change is very difficult because e.g. WP7 has a touch-based UI, and “Silverlight contains APIs that weren’t necessarily built for phones”, and it will occupy the Silverlight team for a long time.

You may be puzzled that Microsoft would abandon the cross-platform nature of Silverlight, but this was always more dream than reality. Silverlight was only properly supported on a few platforms (mainly Windows and Mac), e.g it doesn’t support the leading smartphone OSs, for reasons that seem to be business/political not technical: (1) The leading mobile OS is Java Platform, Micro Edition (Java ME), which carries significant legal risks – Microsoft got sued last time they tried to leverage Java, and now the same thing is happening to Google. (2) Second is Apple’s iOS and Hell will freeze over before Steve Jobs gives Silverlight a fair chance on his iPhone, and (3) Third equal is the Linux-based Android, and Microsoft always limit their support for Open Source platforms to protect desktop Windows revenues. Faced with these kind of problems, it’s understandable that Microsoft have been unable to make Silverlight truly cross-platform, which they are now accepting.


Pete Austin says:

From Bob Muglia, President of the Server and Tools Division at Microsoft

“In the interview, I said several things that I want to emphasize:

1. Silverlight is very important and strategic to Microsoft.
2. We?re working hard on the next release of Silverlight, and it will continue to be cross-browser and cross-platform, and run on Windows and Mac.
3. Silverlight is a core application development platform for Windows, and it?s the development platform for Windows Phone.

When we started Silverlight, the number of unique/different Internet-connected devices in the world was relatively small, and our goal was to provide the most consistent, richest experience across those devices. But the world has changed. As a result, getting a single runtime implementation installed on every potential device is practically impossible. We think HTML will provide the broadest, cross-platform reach across all these devices.”


Anonymous Coward says:

Unfortunately, Silverlight came way too late.
They should have jumped on this bandwagon 10 years ago when it was relevant.

And the fact that it is in every sense of the word identical to Flash, without offering any real improvements over flash, makes it that much less valuable.

And HTML5?? Come on!!
I’m a Flash/HTML/Javascript Developer, HTML5 is in no way, shape or form even comparable to Flash/Silverlight. HTML5 is just the next version of HTML, with a bunch of new tags for supporting native video and audio, and quite frankly, its got a loooong way ahead of it before it catches up with flash.
Example 1: No Fullscreen video
Example 2: HTML5 cannot do interactive multimedia on its own, it needs JQuery, which is no where as feature rich as Flash’s Actionscript and its subsequent Frameworks, ditto for Silverlight
Example 3: Most browsers don’t support it!

Too many people are banking on HTML5 for delivering interactive multimedia content but I see no real potential there! I would rather spend 5 minutes working with Flash’s advanced animation/tweening engine, than spend 3 hours doing the same in HTML5 with less than impressive results!

I would be VERY surprised if they plan to tout HTML5 as an alternative to Silverlight, especially since NONE of their IE browsers support HTML5 at all!!
Not even IE8!

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Innovator’s Dilemma much????

The thing you are missing is that technologies that disrupt are always looked down upon by people who don’t see the potential for disrupting “their way”. Which is what you are doing. “That will never amount to anything” is what you are saying.

Microsoft has never been a trend setter and never will be. They copy what other people do and get on the trend to late. The only thing I have seen them do right in the past couple years is robotic studio. They caught the trend early. But as is discussed here quite often, they don’t have a clue as to how to implement. Which is why even that is a huge fail over time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why do you hate on silverlight?

Mike, I read techdirt every day and have really enjoyed getting to understand the various issues discussed here. However, I really don’t get this hatred you have for silverlight.

Please, please, please take some of your own advice. I think you see Microsoft and it becomes a zero cost issue for you. Silverlight is an awesome way of deliverying line of business applications for enterprises and for handling media streaming.

Why you (and other non-develepors) think it has to compete with Flash or HTML5 is frustrating for those of us that get it and use it for the proper things. Nobody (other than critics that have been debunked multiple times) has said it was intended to be used to build your website with.

-Just a developer that doesn’t get your irrational dislike for a development platform you obviously don’t understand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Why do you hate on silverlight?

It’s possible to build a general purpose website using just flash or silverlight but is considered bad practice for many reasons. Here are a couple links discussing how real developers recommend it be used.

Use Silverlight for a line of business application? YES.

Use Silverlight for first website? Consensus from silverlight developers is NO. Html should be used to build general purpose websites.

Many people think silverlight is intended for “spank the monkey” banner ads (flash replacement) or to replace html. That’s not how real developers are using it.

Etch says:

“Many people think silverlight is intended for “spank the monkey” banner ads (flash replacement) or to replace html. That’s not how real developers are using it.”

Many people (like you yourself) make the same mistake with Flash. You also think that flash is used for “spank the monkey” banner ads and HTML replacement. It isn’t. I also find it kind of silly to try and deny that Flash and Silverlight are in competition.
They are both platforms for delivering interactive multimedia applications and media streaming, business-line or not, using essentially very similar vector graphics engines!

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