The Future of Silverlight (source :::

September 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Future of Silverlight

There’s been a lot of discussion lately around web standards and
HTML 5 in particular. People have been asking us how Silverlight fits
into a future world where the <video> tag is available to
developers. It’s a fair question—and I’ll provide a detailed answer—but I
think it’s predicated upon an oversimplification of the role of
standards that I’d like to clear up first. I’d also like to delineate
why premium media experiences and “apps” are better with Silverlight and
reveal how Silverlight is going beyond the browser to the desktop and

Standards and Innovation

It’s not commonly known, perhaps, that Microsoft is involved in over
400 standards engagements with over 150 standards-setting organizations
worldwide. One of the standards we’ve been involved in for years is HTML
and we remain committed to it and to web standards in general. It’s not
just idle talk, Microsoft has many investments based on or around HTML
such as SharePoint, Internet Explorer, and ASP.NET. We believe HTML 5
will become ubiquitous just like HTML 4.01 is today.

Standardize - Innovate But standards are only half of the story when we think of
the advancement of our industry. Broadly-implemented standards are like
paved roads.  They help the industry move forward together.  But before
you can pave a road, someone needs to blaze a trail. This is
innovation. Innovation and standards are symbiotic—innovations build on
top of other standards so that they don’t have to “reinvent the wheel”
for each piece of the puzzle. They can focus on innovating on the
specific problem that needs to be solved. Innovations complement or
extend existing standards. Widely accepted innovations eventually become
standards. The trails get paved.

In the past, this has happened several times as browsers implemented
new features that later became standards. Right now, HTML is adopting as
standards the innovations that came from plug-ins like Flash and
Silverlight. This is necessary because some of these features are so
pervasive on the web that they are seen by users as fundamentally
expected capabilities. And so the baseline of the web becomes a little
higher than it was before. But user expectations are always rising even
faster—there are always more problems we can solve and further
possibilities needing to be unlocked through innovation.

This is where Silverlight comes in. On the web, the purpose of
Silverlight has never been to replace HTML; it’s to do the things that
HTML (and other technologies) couldn’t in a way that was easy for
developers to tap into. Microsoft remains committed to using Silverlight
to extend the web by enabling scenarios that HTML doesn’t cover. From
simple “islands of richness” in HTML pages to full desktop-like
applications in the browser and beyond, Silverlight enables applications
that deliver the kinds of rich experiences users want. We group these
into three broad categories: premium media experiences, consumer apps
and games, and business/enterprise apps.

Premium Media Experiences

Examples include:

  • Teleconferencing with webcam/microphone
  • Video on demand applications with full DVR functionality and content protection like Netflix
  • Flagship online media events like the Olympics as covered by NBC, CTV, NRK, and France Télévisions
  • Stream Silverlight video to desktops, browsers, and iPhone/iPad with IIS Smooth Streaming

Even though these experiences are focused on media, they are true
applications that merge multiple channels of media with overlays and
provide users with full control over what, when, and how they experience
the content. The media features of Silverlight are far beyond what HTML
5 will provide and work consistently in users’ current and future
browsers. Key differentiators in these scenarios include:

  • High Definition (HD) H.264 and VC-1 video
  • Content protection including DRM
  • Stereoscopic 3D video
  • Multicast
  • Live broadcast support
  • (Adaptive) Smooth Streaming
  • Information overlays / Picture-in-picture
  • Analytics support with the Silverlight Analytics Framework

Consumer Apps and Games

The bar is continually rising for what consumers expect from their
experiences with applications and devices. Whether it’s a productivity
app or a game, they want experiences that look, feel, and work great.
Silverlight makes it possible for designers and developers to give the
people what they want with:

  • Fully-customizable controls with styles and skins
  • The best designer – developer workflow through our tools and shared projects
  • Fluid motion via bitmap caching and effects
  • Perspective 3D
  • Responsive UI with .NET and multithreading

Business/Enterprise Apps

As consumers get used to richer, better experiences with software and
devices, they’re bringing those expectations to work. Business apps
today need a platform that can meet and exceed these expectations. But
the typical business app is built for internal users and must be built
quickly and without the aid of professional designers. To these ends,
Silverlight includes the following features to help make rich
applications affordable:

  • Full set of 60+ pre-built controls, fully stylable
  • Productive app design and development tools
  • Powerful performance with .NET and C#
  • Powerful, interactive data visualizations through charting controls and Silverlight PivotViewer
  • Flexible data support: Databinding, binary XML, LINQ, and Local Storage
  • Virtualized printing
  • COM automation (including Microsoft Office connectivity), group policy management

Other Considerations

For simpler scenarios that don’t require some of the advanced
capabilities mentioned above, Silverlight and HTML both meet the
requirements. However, when looking at both the present and future state
of platform technologies, there are some other factors to take into
consideration, such as performance, consistency and timing.


The responsiveness of applications and the ability for a
modern application to perform sophisticated calculations quickly are
fundamental elements that determine whether a user’s experience is
positive or not. Silverlight has specific features that help here, from
the performance of the CLR, to hardware acceleration of video playback,
to user-responsiveness through multithreading. In many situations today,
Silverlight is the fastest runtime on the web.


Microsoft is working on donating test suites to help
improve consistency between implementations of HTML 5 and CSS3 but these
technologies have traditionally had a lot of issues with variation
between browsers. HTML 5 and CSS 3 are going to make this worse for a
while as the specs are new and increase the surface area of features
that may be implemented differently. In contrast, since we develop all
implementations of Silverlight, we can ensure that it renders the same
Browser Inconsistencies


In about half the time HTML 5 has been under design,
we’ve created Silverlight and shipped four major versions of it. And
it’s still unclear exactly when HTML 5 and its related specs will be
complete with full test suites. For HTML 5 to be really targetable, the
spec has to stabilize, browsers have to all implement the specs in the
same way, and over a billion people have to install a new browser or buy
a new device or machine. That’s going to take a while. And by the time
HTML 5 is broadly targetable, Silverlight will have evolved
significantly. Meanwhile, Silverlight is here now and works in all
popular browsers and OS’s.
Silverlight - HTML 5 Timeline

Beyond the Browser

In this discussion of the future of Silverlight, there’s a critical
point that is sometimes overlooked as Silverlight is still often
referred to—even by Microsoft—as a browser plug-in. The web is evolving
and Silverlight is evolving, too. Although applications running inside a
web browser remain a focus for us, two years ago we began showing how Silverlight is much more than a browser technology.

Silverlight Outside the Browser There are three areas of investment for Silverlight
outside the browser: the desktop, the mobile device, and the living
room. Powerful desktop applications can be created with Silverlight
today. These applications don’t require a separate download—any desktop
user with Silverlight installed has these capabilities. These apps can
be discovered and downloaded in the browser but are standalone
applications that are painless to install and delete. Silverlight now
also runs on mobile devices and is the main development platform for the
new Windows Phone 7 devices. Developers that learned Silverlight
instantly became mobile developers. Lastly, at NAB and the Silverlight 4 launch this year we showed how Silverlight can be used as a powerful, rich platform for living room devices as well.

Expect to see more from Silverlight in these areas especially in our
focus scenarios of high-quality media experiences, consumer apps and
games, and business apps.

When you invest in learning Silverlight, you get the ability to do
any kind of development from business to entertainment across screens
from browser to mobile to living room, for fun, profit, or both. And
best of all, you can start today and target the 600,000,000 desktops and
devices that have Silverlight installed.

If you haven’t already, start here to download all the tools you need to start building Silverlight apps right now.

For more information on this topic, you can watch a video with more details here.

Brad Becker, Director of Product Management, Developer Platforms




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