Silverlight's End Means a New Beginning

Andy Patrizio, Technology Journalist | 6/7/2012 | 8 comments

Andy Patrizio
Developers have been wondering for several months now, especially since the Build conference, if Silverlight has reached the end of the road. Microsoft’s answer to Flash is not as popular, but with penetration of nearly two-thirds on PCs and its status as the primary development environment for Window’s phones, there are plenty of CIOs worried about the fate of plenty of applications. It's not really the end though, just a change to a new style.

The most obvious hint came in April, when Larry Lieberman, a senior product manager at Microsoft, posted this comment on the Windows Phone blog:

    We've also heard some developers express concern about the long term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone. Please don’t panic; XAML and C#/VB.NET development in Windows 8 can be viewed as a direct evolution from today’s Silverlight. All of your managed programming skills are transferrable to building applications for Windows 8, and in many cases, much of your code will be transferrable as well.
How's that for a non-answer? But the answer is obvious. Your Silverlight code is portable right over to XAML and C#/VB.NET. Still, to a fair degree, Microsoft is being responsible in not using the D word.

First off, it's not abandoning Silverlight. It is committed to support it until 2021. The company just released a minor upgrade to version 5.1, which is primarily bug fixes.

Second, Microsoft never did officially declare Windows XP dead, did it? Yes it's off the market and no longer supported, but it lives on as Windows 7. All of your XP apps (well most of them) run on Windows 7 and 8. Microsoft has not readily declared XP dead any more than it has Silverlight, nor should it in either case.

OK, so we expect non-answers from politicians, not our software companies. Face it, this is the best we're going to get. But this migration should be relatively painless. Silverlight code is about 90 to 95 percent portable to the WinRT runtime in Windows 8. The rest should be straightforward porting.

One thing Microsoft recommends doing is loading your application into the beta version of Visual Studio 11, its flagship developer tool, and running a compile to see where the errors are. The fixes might be as minor as changing API namespaces.

Another thing that will help is that Expression Blend, the rich application development tool used to create Silverlight and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) applications, is also the visual design application for building Metro-style apps. So apps written for Silverlight or WPF in Expression should port right over to Metro.

So CIOs and developers can stop obsessing about will-there-or-won't-there be another Silverlight. Microsoft is providing the tools to make migration and reuse of the code as painless as it can.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
tinym   Silverlight's End Means a New Beginning   6/19/2012 10:18:27 AM
Re: HTML 5
You might be onto something, perhaps HTML5 is the reason. It would be fantastic if Silverlight could be rendered in HTML5. Seamless integration is a pretty nifty feature keeping Silverlight relevant.
Taimoor Zubair   Silverlight's End Means a New Beginning   6/8/2012 6:13:19 AM
Re: Silverlight's End
"For what it's worth, I do admit that it turned out substandard, which it couldn't afford to do if it wanted to compete"

@zerox: I agree. My first impression of Silverlight was that it wasn't a complete stable product. It had massive performance issues where the controls took a long time to render. Also, the performance wasn't the best on browsers other than IE. From a developer standpoint, there was very little support available online.

Taimoor Zubair   Silverlight's End Means a New Beginning   6/8/2012 6:05:17 AM
I think one of the reasons why Microsoft isn't going ahead with Silverlight is because of HTML 5. Wouldn't it be a good idea if Microsoft decides to build support so that Silverlight components can be rendered in HTML 5 and there's seamless migration from Silverlight to HTML 5?
tinym   Silverlight's End Means a New Beginning   6/7/2012 11:13:54 PM
The promise of easy migration after running code through Expression Blend sounds great from a coding perspective. I think it's a good move for Microsoft.
zerox203   Silverlight's End Means a New Beginning   6/7/2012 8:24:21 PM

The promise of an integrated developer environment from Microsoft that spans PC and mobile has always seemed like a great idea to me. It leverages their install base in one market to get a foothold in the other, and I think it would be very appealing to a nontrivial amount of developers. Mix in their game console market to cover an angle that, say, Apple, cannot, and you have a real recipe for sucess.

It looks like that's what they're moving towards, and we've seen flashes of it with windows 7, but it doesn't seem like it's all coming together just right. The mobile component just doesn't seem to be there the way they want it to. Maybe windows 8 will be offer the perfect jumpstart for them to get it right - that seems to be what they're betting on, and at this point, that might be their only choice.
zerox203   Silverlight's End Means a New Beginning   6/7/2012 8:03:41 PM
Re: Silverlight's End
Silverlight has always seemed to be one of those ventures that was doomed from the beginning. People wanted not to like it, and regardless of how it actually performed, they were probably going to mock it. For what it's worth, I do admit that it turned out substandard, which it couldn't afford to do if it wanted to compete.

However, what Microsoft would have told me, and other naysayers at the time, was that "failure" was never a possible outcome. The technology was, smartly, built from the ground up to be rolled into other things they had coming down the pipeline - and that's exactly what's happening here. Couple that with the rebranding that you suggest, Andy, and Microsoft will come out of this no worse for wear at all.
David Wagner   Silverlight's End Means a New Beginning   6/7/2012 3:55:15 PM
My first thought about this was that considering Window's sad showing so far in the mobile space that this wasn't all that important. But then I got to thinking about how Flash is essentially dead in the mobile space.

I suppose it is possible that with these changes, the potntial success of Windows 8 (though that still remains to be seen) Silverlight's new incarnation may actually be quite important. It is smart of Microsoft to rebrand it since it doesn't have that great a reputation. And the timing of that rebranding is perfect, too.
Hammad Masood   Silverlight's End Means a New Beginning   6/7/2012 3:50:41 PM
"Expression Blend" is something very useful, very easy to use also and can port right over metro !

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