This.

Frustration is likely the main word from the poor souls who've put in serious amounts of time to become proficient with Expression Studio (Blend) and the intricacies of Microsoft's Silverlight. Mary Jo Foley has a post up today where she interviews Bob Muglia, the Microsoft President in charge of the company’s server and tools business. He basically says the company is moving away from Silverlight in the web space and the desktop space, but “Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone.”

I took an introductory class in VB.NET last semester and was very intrigued by Silverlight, XAML and the way it seemed that Microsoft was aggressively pushing Expression Studio and Silverlight versions. I say "seemed" because its now obvious that Microsoft is losing its interest in Silverlight as a serious contender to Adobe's Flash and HTML 5. I'm a bit befuddled by this bit of news as the W3 consortium doesn't think HTML5 is ready for prime-time and Flash has taken several bad PR shots to the chin as of late.

Is Microsoft giving up too soon? I have no idea, maybe? I will tell you that I was seriously interested in really learning C# and Silverlight development, but a series of related news items have forced me to rethink this position. Javascript, Python, Java and Ruby are really starting to look worthy of a serious investment in time. If I had 5,000 hours invested in Silverlight development, I'd be half-passed extremely angry with Microsoft right now... especially given the Silverlight hype machine they've created in the last few years. I seriously feel bad for these developers as all of a sudden, the focus changes and the path moves. The developer is left in a lurch... press-on, adapt and overcome OR start over.

To me its that simple, but I'm not a sophisticated developer with years of experience. Maybe the Silverlight dev. can carve out a niche and make some money, but for how long? Furthermore, what if the Win7 phone is received like the Microsoft Kin. I'm not in a position to say whether Win7 phone will be successful or not (I hope it is as Android and iOS need more competition). That all said, a simple exercise in objective pragmatism must lead one to seriously consider all of the possible situations which can be conceptualized. Will Microsoft totally abandon Silverlight sometime in the future? After three years and relatively low adoption rates, is it better to cut one's losses and press-on to another technology?

According to RIA Stats, Silverlight plugin penetration is a bit better than half on the big four browsers. Ok, what about sites that employ Silverlight to deliver content? I couldn't find an authoritive place to research such data, so lets get all hot and subjective. Its basic and within the Microsoft sphere, Silverlight is used on a few applications that are truly impressive. Day-to-day video and music media delivery is still firmly in Flash's backyard. Line of business applications from the cloud are a potential bright spot for Silverlight.

I wonder how many companies will hesitate to make a long-term Silverlight commitment because of the news today? Windows Azure supports popular standards, protocols and languages including SOAP, REST, XML, Java, PHP and Ruby. Why fiddle with Silverlight when Microsoft's own cloud supports such a diverse range of languages? How long has Microsoft known they were not in the "game" with Silverlight? Could they have released this information a year ago?

Lots of questions need to be answered.

585 words ~ 3 min read

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