Microsoft Silverlight 5 Beta Due at MIX 2011

Microsoft will deliver a beta of Silverlight 5, the next version of its rich Web application framework, at the MIX 2011 (MIX11) conference that runs April 12-14 in Las Vegas.

As indicated in a recent eWEEK slide show, Microsoft has announced that it will deliver a beta of its Silverlight 5 plug-in technology at the MIX 2011 (MIX11) show in Las Vegas.

At MIX11, which will run April 12-14 in Las Vegas, Microsoft plans not only to deliver a beta of Silverlight 5, the next version of the Microsoft plug-in for delivering rich Web experiences, but also to demonstrate the company's commitment to HTML5, the rapidly emerging standard for Web development.

In an April 4 post on Microsoft's Silverlight blog, a statement issued jointly by three Microsoft Developer Division honchos set out to explain the company's Web development strategy and its positioning of Silverlight and HTML5. The post, entitled, "Standards-based Web, plug-ins and Silverlight," notes that there is no one true tool for all development purposes or scenarios.

Moreover, the April 4 post, signed by Walid Abu-Hadba, corporate vice president of Developer Platform & Evangelism; Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of .NET Developer Platform; and S. Somasegar, senior vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division, had three key takeaways:

  • For plug-in based experiences, we believe Silverlight delivers the richest set of capabilities available to developers today, making the choice of Microsoft technologies even more compelling.
  • For Windows Phone development, Silverlight and XNA are the core fundamental building blocks for building rich experiences that take full advantage of Windows Phone.
  • HTML5 is a solution for many scenarios, and developers should make the appropriate choice based on application needs, knowing that we have a heritage and a future vision of supporting a wide variety of technologies to meet those needs.

Microsoft's strategy around Silverlight and later HTML5 has continually evolved since the introduction of Silverlight in 2007. Initially positioned as a direct competitor to Adobe Systems' Flash technology, Silverlight further evolved into an application framework and tool for creating and delivering rich Web experiences and became a key tool for developing Windows Phone applications.

Indeed, as the post indicates, two key shifts occurred in the industry that have caused Microsoft to put a slightly different emphasis on Silverlight:

""First, the world has changed from one in which people used a single device (primarily a PC) to one in which they use several, and many of the experiences on those devices are Web-enabled in some form or fashion. Given that user experience is now a multi-device (i.e., cross-browser/cross-platform) experience, standards and reach play a more important role than ever, both for users and developers. Second, the evolution and maturity of Web standards have resulted in HTML5 that will support many of those rich scenarios that previously required plug-ins. The market momentum behind adoption of HTML5 as the path forward for broad cross-platform reach continues to gather momentum, and with Internet Explorer 9 Microsoft is chief among those leading that charge.""

During Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2010 last October, Microsoft began to shed more light on the direction the company was taking with Silverlight and HTML5, which caused a ripple of concern in the Microsoft developer community. This April 4 post expands on the guidance former Microsoft Server & Tools President Bob Muglia gave last year.

Al Hilwa, program director for application development software research at IDC, said, "To some extent this is the kind of blog they could have issued prior to last year's PDC when their repositioning came out presumably inadvertently. When Silverlight first came out, Microsoft positioned it as a direct competitor to Flash and presumably many understood that to mean that Microsoft would put it on every platform. As their blog explains correctly, platforms multiplied making such support costly and complex, and some important ones have turned out to be closed ecosystems making that impossible."

Moreover, as the Microsoft post emphasizes, developers will continue to have to make choices as to which tool is best for which applications or purposes.

"Neither plug-ins nor standards-based approaches, however, represent the single answer to client development," Microsoft's post said. "In general, we know developers always want the best of everything, in a single tool, but at the same time recognize that is not a practical way to approach development. Developers need to make choices and tools will continue to evolve." In particular, many development decisions will have to be made, "close to the code," the post added.

Summing up his thoughts on the issue, IDC's Hilwa said:

""HTML5 has received broad support and faster-than-expected implementation in mobile and now desktop browsers. Much of what might have required plug-ins can be done with HTML5. There are, however, high-end applications where plug-ins will continue to make sense. Also, plug-ins will always be faster to exploit new capabilities in hardware and to introduce new capabilities that take advantage of ever-improving performance. If the standards lag with respect to what is possible with technology, plug-ins will play a bigger role. What is more depending on available tools and skills some runtimes will be more productive to develop for than others. I think the blog is highlighting that new investments in HTML5 tooling are coming from Microsoft and to explain why Silverlight may not continue to be the star of the show it has been the last couple of years.""