It has been a wild weekend for sure. A slew of important announcements at PDC, sudden withdrawal of all Silverlight sessions, Bob Muglia’s statement about Microsoft’s change in plans, the uptake from journalists, the community uproar... A comedy of errors was unfolding in the technology space while I was happily spending my weekend enjoying my kid’s birthday and not thinking about dev platforms.
So, I come in the office today and my inbox is blinking like crazy, mails from a ton of people from inside the company and out and the common question is – what are you/we doing with Silverlight? Is this the beginning of the end? Are we going to abandon Silverlight now that it was declared dead? Is HTML5 the future of web development?
In short - we love Silverlight, our customers love it and we don’t see it dying, nor will we abandon it. Silverlight might benefit from some improvements, but is not dead and will not die that easily. It might not be the “premier” UI technology of Microsoft (whatever that means, I never really understood that message) but it will thrive in many types of applications. Perhaps Microsoft raised the expectations too high when they announced Silverlight a few years ago and its benefits were blown out of proportion. I guess many people expected that there would be nothing but Silverlight.
While you could argue forever who is going to “win,” I don’t really understand why people put HTML5 and Silverlight in the same basket and don’t separate the future of Silverlight from the future of the internet. In a way, it feels like people talking about a championship clash between New York Yankees and Manchester United. True, both teams play sports, both of them are great, but… they don’t compete in the same sport. So it’s kinda’ difficult for them to have a face-off so that you have a clear winner.
This brings me to my main point – Yankees fans do not want to watch another sport when their favorite baseball team is playing (the same applies to Man Utd soccer fans) any more than developers want to use another technology when they like the one they’re using. HTML5 and Silverlight may both be development platforms, but they have very different approaches and they appeal to different audiences, hence they don’t really “compete” for the same championship.
I hope you are not shocked! That’s what our data shows – web devs never picked up Silverlight as their platform of choice. They always stayed close to what they felt most comfortable with – JS, HTML, CSS, AJAX. Sure, they suffered from cross-browser issues due to the fact that every browser has its take on how “standard” features should be implemented, but they stayed true to pure web development and never embraced Flash or Silverlight.
On the other hand, our data shows that Silverlight appeals mostly to people coming from the WinForms world. For them, it’s the transition from WinForms to the next-generation world. Silverlight might be the super media platform, but most of our customers are not using it for that and don’t appreciate it for the HD streaming. These people were doing WinForms development and were looking for ways to enjoy richer functionality and simpler deployment of the backbone apps of their organizations. They found the Silver bullet and saw the light! With the blossoming of Silverlight, I think we finally get the best of both worlds when it comes to LOB – the ubiquity of the browser, the rich experience, the online and offline scenarios, and the great languages and tooling (well, that’s as of recently and we could definitely use some improvements).
Further, I don’t think that you can build with HTML what you can build with Silverlight with the same effort. You can build amazing stuff with any technology if you are a great developer and you know the domain. The real problem, and hence test, for any developer technology is how easily it enables less experienced devs to deliver amazing results. In my opinion, SL’s threshold is pretty low and it has the best cost/value, especially when you are talking about internal applications of medium size and complexity and up.
As a short summary - have no fear, dear customers. We plan to continue investing heavily in both HTML5/CSS and Silverlight; stay tuned to our Silverlight team blog for regular roadmap updates. You know you can count on Telerik to follow the latest development trends and your needs. Last week we introduced Windows Phone 7 suite (1st in industry!) and you can be assured we will be there for you for HTML5, too (stay tuned to Telerik blogs for more on that soon). We will not “retire” WPF or WinForms; just see what we are delivering to you next week with the Q3 2010 release (WPF, WinForms). We are an infrastructure provider so whatever the market needs, that we will deliver. We believe that customers should be the ones to decide what to use and when. Our responsibility, and business, is to provide them with the absolutely best tools no matter whether we get tail of headwind from Microsoft and we will stay committed to everything we have started.
And a closing word of advice – choose your tools based on your skillset and your company’s needs rather than on emotions based on mass hysteria.
As Chief Innovation Officer at Progress, Vassil Terziev is responsible for identifying growth strategies and new market opportunities, as well as promoting internal innovation.