Would you bet on WPF, Silverlight or HTML5?

There’s nothing like someone saying some technology is “dead” to really create a storm. It’s even more of a controversial thing when it’s said by a former Microsoft Product Manager for Silverlight about what many consider a key technology for Microsoft i.e. WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation).

Scott Barnes, made some interesting statements on where he thought WPF, Silverlight and HTML5 were headed in the overall Microsoft Strategy. His overall assertion was that WPF was on a road to nowhere and that most of the internal love was for Silverlight and increasingly for HTML5. This even prompted Scott Guthrie of Microsoft who manages the teams that builds these products to state


I have no special insight into whether Scott Barnes is right and I’ve no reason to believe that someone as respected and trusted as “The Gu” is not being honest.

My own insight and thoughts on this, with 20 years experience, in the technology/software industry is that I would be very surprised if there weren’t tensions between product groups at Microsoft. I think that is the nature of a large corporate business like Microsoft and I’m sure the Windows 7 team doesn’t like the Managed Code .NET teams and possibly views it with suspicion. It might explain the reason that we’ve not seen any WPF app built into Vista/Windows 7. I have previously blogged and stated at Microsoft Partner  meetings why Microsoft wasn’t porting more of it’s own apps to WPF? Something even as less controversial as Windows Live Messenger remains as a standard Windows app.

Betting on technologies is what we do and we do it for and with our customers everyday. I know that often the range of technologies/solutions from Microsoft are quite large but from my experience customers do need choice as to how they build solutions. Even if Microsoft had only one way to build apps then people are sill faced with a wide choice of building software whether that be Java, PHP, C/C++, Python, Ruby, Objective C, Adobe Air and running it on different platforms.

The fundamental principle behind WPF/Silverlight that we needed to bridge the gap between UI designers and developers was a sound one, and that by having a declarative language like XAML we could do valuable stuff easily/quickly without hardcore programming in C# or VB.NET was absolutely right. It’s true to say that we haven’t seen a huge rush for people to build WPF apps and that Silverlight has probably been more successful. I have just installed the new Seesmic Desktop 2 Beta which is built on the out of browser Silverlight capability.

There is now talk of HTML5 killing Silverlight and I guess by inference Adobe Flash as well and I saw an article today saying whether it will kill Javascript. It is with little doubt that HTML5 is going to be a very important move in web based applications. HTML is a funny old beast! It’s one of those technologies which was designed to give a very basic user experience because we are essentially working with the lowest common denominator to get a uniform experience, i.e uniformly bad!!. We then had more stuff pushed to the browser with Flash for more interactive experiences and then AJAX and more recently Silverlight. HTML5 is still developing as a specification whereas Silverlight is here and now and provides a great set of developer/designer tools and capabilities.

Obviously, we have some “big beasts” backing HTML5 such as Apple & Google. Microsoft cannot be seen to backing away on HTML5 because it’s been there and done that before. That’s why it’s been quick to release the public beta of IE9.

So, which do you back? Well, I think it does really depend but it’s still a very good bet to be backing Microsoft technologies!

Remix UK 08

I’m booked to go to Remix UK 08 on 18/19th September at the Brighton Centre. Apparently, this isn’t an event in its traditional form its a "48 hour conversation". Not sure what that actually means but it sounds good. Attendance at this event highlights the changes happening in what I’m doing. Remix is about Microsoft’s Web technologies and is aimed at Designers and Developers. The keynote speakers are :-

  • Scott Guthrie, Corporate VP, .NET Developer Division
  • Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher, Microsoft

The site for Remix says that Brighton is a "…really chilled out place that has a unique creative buzz about it, and if you’re from out of town you’ll be able down tools completely and just lay back and enjoy…"

The only problem is that it won’t be the usual crowd that I know, so means I’ll have to talk to people I don’t know …arrgghhh!! But, I’m really looking forward to it and if you are going let me know.

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Free Programming Resources from Microsoft

Here are some great FREE resources for software development from Microsoft

Event : Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Framework 3.x – 3 day instructor led course from 19-21 February. Check out the Partner Portal for more info. You’ll probably get waitlisted for it and you have to be a Certified Partner but worth a go anyway as it’s zero cost.

Free eBooks on LinQ, ASP.NET AJAX and Silverlight. Check out this blog post for the details.

Microsoft and Novell to formally cooperate on Silverlight

The Linux implementation of Silverlight called Moonlight developed by the Mono team have formalised their cooperation with Microsoft. Miguel de Icaza, the Port 25 guys and Scott Guthrie have it on their blogs. Great stuff!

Hosting Silverlight on Linux

This seems fairly obvious when you think about it and I’m pretty sure Dave Overton has mentioned this previously in a blog post, but you don’t need a Windows Server to host Silverlight. As long as the webserver will serve the assets up to the client browser, the Silverlight plugin will render the content. Tim Heuer has the low down on this.

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