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Yuriy Lyeshchenko Luck in life always exists in the form of an abstract class that cannot be instantiated directly and needs to be inherited by hard work and dedication.

Preamble

Microsoft’s first introduction of upcoming Windows 8 spurred lots of discussions among developers. The most noticeable part of the demonstrations at D9 conference and Computex  show, as well as on YouTube, is, of course,  the new touch-centric UI.  So why is it controversial among  developers? Let’s take a look at Microsoft’s press release:

Today, we also talked a bit about how developers will build apps for the new system. Windows 8 apps use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML to deliver new kinds of experiences.

So there you got it. What we see here are HTML and JavaScript as a platform for the new Windows 8 UI. What do we not see here? WPF/Silverlight, .Net or any native platforms. No wonder that such message from Microsoft caused hot debates among developers. These two threads over on Silverlight’s official forum account for almost 10 million views (yes, you read it right, millions). This discussion over on Channel 9 generally follows the same direction: developers express their outrage at Microsoft’s pick of technology for the new user interface in Windows 8. I do not want to repeat all the reasons why our fellow developers are so upset about Microsoft’s choice, please, read the discussions at the links above.

I will be honest with you, when I first saw the Windows 8 preview, my first reaction was going to Google, sorry Bing, and searching for “Windows 8 preview html5 javascript silverlight”. I wanted to see community’s take on the announcements, and you already know what I got as a result – many Silverlight/.Net developers were wondering what was going on. Some amount of rage as well (which actually caused closing of one of the forum threads over on Silverlight’s official forums I mentioned above). Microsoft’s message was absolutely unexpected to many. What makes it even worse is that recently Microsoft has had a surprisingly steady track of sending mixed messages about the future of Silverlight. Let’s see what has happened so far.

 

Silverlight? What is Silverlight?

First, it was PDC 2010 conference, where Silverlight was noticeably absent in keynotes and sessions. And also comments from Bob Muglia (former President of the Server and Tools Division at Microsoft) about Silverlight that later required  follow-up blog post from him to assure that Silverlight is not dead. Later Microsoft even held the “Silverlight Firestarter 2010” event as damage control for Silverlight developers so they can rest assured that the future of Silverlight is bright.

But you know what happened next? Mix 11 and again Silverlight was far from being in the spotlight at the event. What is ironical in some way, is that several Microcofties used the Silverlight Firestarter event as a big reason why Silverlight did not get that much attention at Mix 11. See the irony? An event which was meant as damage control for the lack of attention to Silverlight at PDC was the reason for the lack on information at Mix 11. Speaking of learning from previous mistakes…

 

Windows 8 and Silverlight

So the Mix 11 was the second big wave of unrest at Silverlight community. Then comes Windows 8 preview. The new touch-centric UI was introduced. That was for consumers. For developers? This UI is built using HTML5/JavaScript. I do not believe regular consumers care what technology is behind the tile-intensive touch-friendly interface. The message about technologies used for it is clearly targeted at developers, nobody else would really care about it. And developers did notice it. Very loudly did. The most obvious reaction to this message is fear, uncertainty and doubt.

So what does Microsoft have to say about it? Let’s see. First, from Steven Sinofsky (the President of the Windows Division at Microsoft) at his Q&A session after the preview of Windows 8 at D9 conference:

Q: Where is Silverlight in all this?

A: There’s still a place for Silverlight, says Sinofsky. “The browser that we showed runs Silverlight and it will still run on the desktop.”

Are you surprised that this question was asked just a couple minutes after the demonstration of Windows 8 had been done? Me neither. But the answer speaks for itself, I do not think that I need to comment on it.

Next is Pete Brown’s (Microsoft Community Program Manager) comment on Silverlight’s forum:

As to everything else: You all saw a very small technology demo of Windows 8, and a brief press release. We're all being quiet right now because we can't comment on this. It's not because we don't care, aren't listening, have given up, or are agreeing or disagreeing with you on something. All I can say for now is to please wait until September. If we say more before then, that will be great, but there are no promises (and I'm not aware of any plans) to say more right now. I'm very sorry that there's nothing else to share at the moment. I know that answer is terrible, but it's all that we can say right now. Seriously.

Pete clearly admits that what Silverlight and .Net developers are hearing right now from Microsoft is not really what they want to hear. And honestly, I just do not understand why Microsoft is doing this. They could very simply avoid this. If Microsoft really has awesome news coming for Silverlight developers, then why, instead of building expectations and getting them excited about what is coming in the future for them, did Microsoft choose to upset them? Simply not talking about HTML5/JavaScript during the preview would not cause any unrest among developers. As simple as that. If you are going to talk about Windows 8 development platforms only at the BUILD event in September and not earlier (at least that’s what Microsofties are talking about), just apply the same for HTML5/JS and everybody would be happy. And talks like the Sinofsky’s answer do not help either.

 

Conclusion

I do not know what the future for Silverlight is. I do not know if it is considered as one of the important platforms inside Microsoft, or if they are slowly but surely letting it to sink into oblivion. I cannot talk about the future of Silverlight as I have no knowledge about it like anybody outside of Microsoft. What I know though, is that Microsoft is doing (and has been doing for awhile now) a very poor job communicating about Silverlight and, as a result, has irritated its developers on more than one occasion. Some might overreact or draw conclusions on anything but speculations, but it is Microsoft itself who is letting this happen.  Microsoft needs to stop doing this and be more open and straightforward with its developers.

Posted on Monday, June 13, 2011 12:40 AM General | Back to top


Comments on this post: Windows 8, HTML5, JavaScript and Silverlight

# re: Windows 8, HTML5, JavaScript and Silverlight
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Microsoft didn't talk much about Silverlight not because they're getting rid of it, but because HTML5/JavaScript is more widely-known. Since HTML5 is introducing new native technologies into web pages, there's a certain buzz around it. Microsoft wants to prove that Windows 8 is relevant by using these newer technologies and applying them to the desktop.

Their widgets have been pretty limited in the past because of the limited development and usage. Adding support for widgets that are powered by HTML5 and JavaScript wouldn't be hard for Microsoft since they've implemented the technology on the desktop for years already. It would also be beneficial because apps can be made quicker by more people and don't have to be limited to Windows since they're in a format that the major browsers will be supporting.

Silverlight will still be around. It's a different environment and is easier to use for more content-rich applications from what I understand. I seriously doubt that the Windows 8 desktop is going to kill Silverlight; I believe that it may help it to grow by expanding the diversity and flexibility of the widgets on the desktop, offering a sort of gateway into Silverlight development for HTML5/JavaScript programmers. But we'll see how it plays out.
Left by Nick Andren on Jul 02, 2011 12:45 PM

# It's all about communication
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Thank you Nick for the comment!
While I share the opinion that Microsoft is not going to kill Silverlight (at least soon), it makes my point that the current situation is a PR disaster even more prominent. I just do not comprehend why Microsoft would give with one hand and take with the other. I they decided to promote HTML5+JS they could at the same time easily calm down Silverlight developers. But they decided to play the silence game for whatever reason. This is what bothers me.

Thanks to this situation now I am reading all over the internet that not only Silverlight, but .Net in general is going to die. We all know that Internet is the place where some insane speculation or rumors spread like wildfire and usually are way overblown, but why Microsoft decided to let this happen (and not to stop these speculations when they noticed that it is happening) is still a mystery for me. I suspect that somebody at very top of Microsoft management decided that this is just unjustified outcry of temperamental developers and thy will calm down when BUIL event reveals what they are hiding in their sleeves for developers. If this is the case, I do not agree with such position at all (on so many levels).
Left by Yuriy Lyeshchenko on Jul 03, 2011 4:13 PM

# Whyyyy!
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... JavaScript is a mess... This language is a patch to let do more things in HTML...

And now the messy patch continue with HTML5 ... Are we in 2011 or what? Now we have elaborated fully fonctionnal and efficient OO language like Java and C# and C++/cli etc and in 2011 we have to declare classes in JavaScript like this:

function someObj() {
function someMethod() {
alert('boo');
}
}

Come on!!!This is shit... complete shit... we need a coherent OO language to do HTML5 not this cryptic unmaintainable shit...

Shouldn't we not go forward rather than backward?

I am really disapointed that silverlight and flash technologies to be dropped and replace by jscrypt crap...

Hey! Why don't doing applications in Awk or Perl...

Why simplify things when we could complexify it?!?
Left by Eric on Nov 26, 2011 12:49 AM

# re: Windows 8, HTML5, JavaScript and Silverlight
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Windows 8, HTML5 is worth waiting, which will give the web browser support the stuff like flash is doing, the future is great.
Left by tomato blog on Dec 02, 2011 5:13 PM

# re: Windows 8, HTML5, JavaScript and Silverlight
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I dont give a shit if they allow the javascript hackers mess around with the system, as long as c# and oop is still ruling.

Html5 is a good idea if forced and is omitted from a higher level language lets say wpf/silverlight, or if .NETified.

but that's for sure replacing c# with javascript is a terrible idea.
Left by Shimmy on Mar 14, 2012 3:52 AM

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