Saturday, October 20, 2007

Silverlight on the horizon

Eclipse had a visit this week from Michael Kordahi - developer evangelist for Microsoft.

Fox Movies Silverlight site
We invited him because the hot topic around our office at the moment is Silverlight. The ubiquitous hype has been hard to avoid - about how this plug-in could deliver fast rich media across browsers and platforms in a seamless, showy, full screen and totally interactive way. The tools you need to create these fabulous interfaces are MS Visual Studio for developers and MS Expression Studio - or specifically Expression Blend for designers.

But it's still early days:
  • Silverlight 1.0 is still in Beta and is a little buggy, but 1.1 Alpha is also available now
  • No one really has the plug-in yet but it is only around 2mg to download and surprisingly, MS will not be packaging it with IE for anti-competitive reasons
  • So far there is only a small developer community but it will grow

So how does Silverlight compare with Flash, AJAX and Flex for offering rich media and applications online?

  • AJAX doesn't require a plug in but it's complicated to code with lots of custom javascript
  • Flex requires the Flash plugin (which most users have), it's well supported by code libraries and a good development environment - it's easier to develop in than AJAX
  • And then, there is Adobe's Apollo for building rich desktop applications using flash, flex, HTML and AJAX - still in development but available now for download (check out the eBay demo)
  • Flash is dominant in delivering video over the web

We're impatient to try it our for ourselves, either for the Eclipse site or Deloitte Digital. If Michael's promises about the product prove to be true - it will give both designers and developers an opportunity to work together in parallel, seamlessly developing on the one platform.

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