Silverlight and HTML5, Rainbows, Sunshine and Bullshit.

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I look at all the hysteria around technolgyX vs. technologyY and immediately tend to ignore anything said within the blog posts or news articles. It’s not important enough to get all worked up about, as the real core element of these arguments is which is going to be popular vs. which isn’t?

Take the current week or so around HTML5 vs. Silverlight. The reality is most plug-in or desktop centric developers who are content with the status quo probably aren’t even going to be interested in HTML5 unless someone pays them a nice hefty sum of money to do so – if and only when – their current work stream dries up.

The reality of the conversation around these two titans of technology isn’t which is better, its more to the core essence of the argument – which is Microsoft going to favor. It’s an important point to make as when the rainbows and sunshine circle jerks are over, someone has to stand before an Bob Muglia and declare where they are going to spend the budgets for the next fiscal and why.

Windows Phone 7 is obviously going to take the lions share next fiscal, Internet Explorer 9 will also have a hefty amount attached to it as well. This in turn creates a ripple effect downstream as once the budget lines are declared internally it then generates bounty / career opportunities as well. It doesn’t stop there, being seen to be on the winning product of the month is a easy career booster but more importantly it also at times can determine where the Evangelism teams worldwide are to spend the bulk of their energy.

I’ll be fair, Evangelism inside Microsoft has a purpose and that is to be ahead of the technology release waves, in that their job is to get the crowd world wide excited ahead of a release. It then falls back to the marketing / sales pipelines to then sustain that excitement once the Evangelism squads have had their mission re-routed.

The playbook

Here lies the problem with this playbook. The first is that Sales/Marketing folks aren’t really goaled too heavily on Market share centric metrics – they are rewarded more for Revenue share focused metrics. Silverlight has zero revenue share, Internet Explorer has zero revenue share but Windows Phone 7 has revenue share.

Here lies the dilemma though. On one hand you have a product that has a number attached to it that can get sales / marketing teams excited. In order to be effective in promotion of this product they need to excite the wider mass around it – which in turn means free Silverlight marketing. The downside is that Internet Explorer 9 is important as well so Microsoft has to give some focus to the HTML5 cause.

Do you start to see the problems with that? it requires a consistent unique clear strategy on how to separate the two concepts from one another.

This is pretty much why BobMu came out and stated what he said but kind of fumbled it not only once but twice in the process. The reality is that Microsoft will want to slightly turn down the volume on Silverlight so that IE9 can get its share of the spotlight. In order to wind the volume down, you got to start saying things like Silverlight + Mobility over and over while turning up the volume on Internet Explorer 9 + HTML5 + Applications a bit louder than before.

Silverlight gets thrown under a bus.

I have been mucking around with this, and I probably shouldn’t via twitter. That being said, Silverlight isn’t a dead technology – yet – it’s still got legs as whilst Microsoft’s intent is obviously crank Internet Explorer 9 + HTML5 volume pretty loud as well as Windows Phone 7 – the reality is out of the 600k Silverlight developers and plethora of WPF developers left uncounted, they pretty much couldn’t give a rats ass about HTML5 in the first place.

I wouldn’t necessarily declare HTML5 the victor simply because Microsoft said so. I’d look at this more of a case of wait and see, in that sure Microsoft will market the crap out of IE9 but in reality this product is a stillborn brand in the first place and furthermore HTML5 is nowhere near ready for prime time adoption.

All this will do however is scare the crap out of business decision makers who don’t know better. Technical decision makers may or may not be shy about Silverlight and it really comes back to how Microsoft can redeem themselves beyond their current fumblings – (I’m hopeful Scott Guthrie this week at DevConnections will do a better job at his Commitment speech than BobMu alongside leaking some hints around what Silverlight 5 is going to have to ensure people are focused on the actionable elements within such a commitment speech).

In summary.

HTML5 vs. Silverlight is going to be a hot topic until Microsoft tips its hand on which one it favors the most but right now you won’t get that from the company as to do so means sacrificing two legacy brands that are filled with enough hate debt to cause major hurt amongst the masses.

Windows Phone 7 has to overcome Windows Phone 6.5 and below legacy related issues that aren’t technical but more conceptual.

Internet Explorer 9 has to overcome everything from the IE6 disaster through to the IE7 and IE8 disasters all the while showing that they aren’t interested in the Embrace & Extend forking that its historically been known to do. This one brand has caused more negativity for Microsoft as a brand than any other product since Office + Clippy.

You’re going to see Evangelists etc talk about "choice" and "it depends" as that’s all they can really throw at you right now, bottom line for you to think about is not which tech is better but where do you think Microsoft will place its bets next. As once they decide, one of the two will end up in the heap alongside WinForms, WebForms and sadly – *sob* WPF.

The only way I can see Silverlight teams putting out this tire fire is if they release the Silverlight5 roadmap now, it will add weight to the usual fluff commitment pledge as well is giving all a better understanding of how things to come are supposed to connect with one another.

I would like to see a better focused strategy around how Microsoft UX Platform looks tomorrow as the old 2007 one is kind of a bit rusty now given all the new technology variables at play.

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  • That’s an inside the MS bubble perspective. For those of us on the outside it looks like this:

    Microsoft can’t get Silverlight onto mobile phones and tablets. Android, RIM, and iOS are Silverlight free. That’s the way it is and that’s how the Silverlight cross runtime story died.

    The mobile Web is evolving and so is the desktop Web. Microsoft can’t ignore it. And IE can’t be left behind Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. So budgets in MS have to be allocated in response to changes in the marketplace that Microsoft has no control over.

    The cross-platform story for SIlverlight is over. Microsoft has to do the best it can with HTML5. That means making .Net the premier platform for creating HTML5 apps. We’ll see how that goes. I expect .Net developers understand all this and will focus on ASP .Net, JQuery/AJAX, etc. They’ll learn about the video and canvas tags. Eventually Microsoft will provide some nice tools. It’ll be ok. The web will be a better place for it.

  • D

    Party like it’s 1999 …..

    It is now clear. Head back to ASP.NET with AJAX/JQuery/CSS and wait for new controls that merge CSS3+JQuery/AJAX+HTML5(Canvas) through one of the three or all of the three approaches to ASP.NET. It would seem that they could piggy back on WebForms, but since they have dropped that off a cliff, then I doubt it. They can take MVC and WebPages and toss them in the trash IMHO as more software engineering jobs will go overseas the longer it takes to build an intranet web app. Businesses want results and WebForms would work the easiest to get the new controls out there instead of MVC and WebPages because you’ve already seeded five years of developer goodness with WebForms since 2.0 in 05 and folks can drag, drop, and wire it up. MVC3 is still in beta and they add new view engines left and right. Of course that doesn’t work for some, but they could roll out all the “helpers” they want later after the WebForms based apps have proven the stuff works. Developer division needs to lick their wounds, latch on to this as the direction to head and prepare for it by getting support for all three approaches going and not just promote one because someone wants to learn a new pattern. Also, modify WebForms more, as is already happening, so that the testing products, which should have been there for WebForms, will work with it as well as MVC and stop the marketing machine that one is better suited over the other. It’s proven that it’s a failed thought process and they only do more damage dividing developer camps with that mentality. Do they want more developers or less? Do they want to be relevant in five years? The lightswitch is flipped and it’s off.

    Sidebar: Why MS didn’t continue after SL2 with more controls like asp:mediaplayer, I’ll never understand. Sure fire way to bake into the aspx pages islands of SL and keep the technology closely coupled to a harder target to kill – ASP.NET. Better yet create combo controls that allowed for SL/AJAX functionality all from the toolbox as part of the core offerings. Imagine changing a property on a dropdownlist to SL:true and behold a SL dropdown is rendered to the page. Oh well too late now.

    Visual Studio as and HTML editor is akin to killing a fly with a bazooka. So hopefully someone in the Gu’s group has a solid approach to deal with the “change in direction”. Otherwise, I’d imagine MSDN license sales will start to slow and eventually drop as you can do HTML5/CSS3/JQuery/JSON, et al. in Notepad.

  • >”The only way I can see Silverlight teams putting out this tire
    > fire is if they release the Silverlight5 roadmap now…”

    That would be good.

    I wonder how concrete such a hypothetical internal roadmap is at this point.

    Our overlord has multiple heads. First those heads would need to agree on a roadmap internally. One advantage of BobMu’s “clarification” to Bob is that it really doesn’t say much. That reduces the need for tough internal meetings and decisions. Actual commitments might come back bite Bob a year from now.

    (I wanted to link to an image of a confused, somewhat-overweight, multi-headed, hamster, but I couldn’t find any. So this will have to do: http://www.pawcurious.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/hamster.jpg).

  • Vic Klien
  • D

    Microsoft Folks Submit Grid model for HTML/CSS to the W3C.
    http://msjoe.com/blog/posts/microsoft-folks-submit-grid-model-for-html-css-to-the-w3c/

    http://www.interoperabilitybridges.com/css3-grid-align/

    Look familiar? Can’t this already be done with CSS?

  • @ Vic Klien:
    I disagree. They broke the commitments they made before (and this isn’t the first time). Why would he stop now? He’s not worried about what promise he makes today that he has to break tomorrow just so long as it’s good for the company. History has shown this already (not necessarily by BobMu personally), but by the actions of the company.

    Corporations like Microsoft do not think about anything beyond a certain fiscal goal. In reality, HTML5 is the safer bet.

    And since the whole HTML5 spec is in such turmoil right now, this is an ideal time for Microsoft to take advantage of that ambiguity and create early interpretations of the “standards” (and therefore owning the spec)

    This is all about getting IE back in the game and taking advantage of the HTML5 situation in an attempt to take ownership (or partial ownership) of where the web standards are going. And by doing so, ensuring that IE remains the “best experience” (or rather relevant conduit) to other things (such as Bing advertising revenue)

    @ Mossyblog:
    I’ve been a pretty big critic of the whole handling of the Silverlight vs HTML5 thing. I’ve never thought Silverlight was dead in the literal sense. (In fact, I green-lit a new project at work today to use Silverlight 4… again).

    But I think it’s dead to a lot of people who were expecting it to be the cross platform framework it originally set out to be. I was certainly betting on it with my after hours pet project. Notboss’s interpretation of BobMu’s fumble is dead on. Silverlight isn’t dead (yet), but the multi-platform story is.

    Given the top request here:
    http://dotnet.uservoice.com/forums/4325-silverlight-feature-suggestions/topics/4325-i-suggest-you-/filter/top

    I’m probably not alone in my disappointment.

    And I think this is what mostly rubs the devout developers the wrong way. MS asks the community to drive their priority list, and then ignore the top requested feedback.

    Granted the “get it on more platforms” is far too coarse of a request to set as a real goal for a single release, but I think a step toward at least one additional platform every release (or every other release) would be more than enough to keep interest.

    I guess it’s all too possible that the seriousness and visibility of that list doesn’t go much higher than ScottGu, but it still makes the dev community (outside of the MVP star players) feel like their requests have fallen on deaf ears..

  • Silverlights not dead nor is it going anywhere; Microsoft place Silverlight (quite rightly) as WPF for Web; its a container for flashy functionality much in the same way as Flash. Its engrained into their Mobile application framework and will undoubtedly slip into the XBox and any other devices the push out.
    The real issue here is with reporting; the HTML5 fan-group and design sites decided it was dead based solely on a leaked forum post… careless lazy reporting.

    Usage wise though; I would agree with the previous poster that the cross-platform dream is dead; usage for web applications is at best going to become questionable (as to the point) when alternative technologies offer many of the same advantage. Silverlight will slowly change into something that runs on WinPhone7 and internal company applications.

    I don’t really agree with this though…
    “And since the whole HTML5 spec is in such turmoil right now, this is an ideal time for Microsoft to take advantage of that ambiguity and create early interpretations of the “standards” (and therefore owning the spec)”

    Firstly HTML5 isn’t really in turmoil, not quite sure where you pulled that from but I can guarantee the sun doesn’t shine often there; as with every large change the implementations and community uptake drive the choices of implementation, by HTML standards HTML5 is probably one of the quickest to be implemented, even if its partially.

    Microsoft have already made IE9 quite enticing by creating their Direct2D font rendering, catching up on ALLOT of movement by other browsers and building hardware driven CSS3 animations and a sh*t-hot JS engine. Getting above themselves and releasing propriety technologies/standards like the IE of old isn’t something the web-community needs, and its not something sustainable for MSFT with their so so slow release cycle.
    Google/Mozilla can afford to add changes and play as they release Dev builds every few days or week at a minimum; so its simple for them to implement a P.O.C and pull it before it hits the consumer release. Microsoft dont and shouldnt.

  • Though the FUI on http://www.riagenic.com/archives/207 does sound cool; someone just needs to produce a reasonably priced windows tablet computer that is aesthetically pleasing, fast, bug free and rammed with flashy silverlight but will also run all peoples favourite windows apps as well as flex 😉 Oh and it needs to be cheaper than an iPad

  • HTML has always been the equivalent of forcing a round peg in a square hole as develpers try to creates sophisticated applications out of a technology that was never designed for sophisticated applications in the first place…