Silverlight's Broken Promise
By now, I'm sure you've all read about the rumors that the upcoming Silverlight 5 might be the last release of Silverlight. Of course, people who've been paying attention to the Silverlight news coming out of Microsoft and the blogosphere in the past year shouldn't be surprised at this. But for those of you who are still in the "oh please, it's just a rumor" camp, you might want to keep in mind that every negative rumor about Silverlight of the past year has turned out to be true. As a result, I fully expect the upcoming Silverlight 5 release to indeed be the last stop along a troubled line.
Plenty of Silverlight developers were concerned that their investment in the technology would end up being worthless. I never really understood that since I've always believed that good developers focus on skills that are transferable to multiple technologies instead of betting it all on a single technology. Nevertheless, many Silverlight developers were up in arms, but their worries and fears seem to have been calmed by the news that Windows 8 will make extensive use of XAML. Silverlight developers will be able to transfer their XAML skills to building Metro apps and of course, WP7 apps. And there's no reason to assume that Microsoft intends to change its smartphone platform in a way that would diminish the importance of XAML. So, Silverlight developers who were worried that their skills will be worthless don't really have anything to worry about and I'm sure many of them are quite relieved by that. After all, many Silverlight projects will be able to run as native apps on Windows 8 with relatively minor modifications.
Of course, that doesn't quite offer a solution to the thorny little issue about all the Silverlight projects that have been developed because of some of the benefits that Silverlight promised: cross platform and browser-independent availability of the plugin. The promise was that you could develop projects that would be available to users no matter what platform or browser that they were using (believers of this promise would even mention Moonlight, which has never really offered a truly compatible version), and with no deployment-related issues. After all, users only needed to have the Silverlight plugin installed to run your software. And that promise has been broken. Yes, you can migrate your Silverlight projects to Windows 8. Yes, people will be able to keep running existing Silverlight projects as long as they have the upcoming Silverlight 5 runtime installed. But we also already know that the Metro version of IE10 will not run the Silverlight plugin and that running the plugin in the 'desktop' version of IE10 will require users to install it themselves. For enterprise software, that's not much of an issue but you do have to ask yourself: how long are you willing to hang on to a plugin that Microsoft itself is no longer interested in improving in the long run?