Silverlight vs. Flash: Defining Ubiquity

Microsoft claims one in four computer users has access to Silverlight. Meanwhile, Microsoft is working to increase Silverlight adoption to catch up to Adobe Flash. Microsoft says Silverlight 2 works well with the Google Chrome browser and it is looking at Google Android support.

The most interesting part of Microsoft's Silverlight 2 announcement Oct. 13 was the company's focus on ubiquity. Everybody wants ubiquity in the software world. When it comes to the rich Internet application and media experience space, Adobe Flash is ubiquitous and Microsoft is playing catch-up big time with Silverlight. And it won't be long before Adobe releases the next version of Flash, Flash 10.

However, with Silverlight 2, Microsoft is saying it has now reached the point where one in four computer users has access to a computer that runs Silverlight. So that sounds like penetration of about 25 percent. Adobe claims adoption rates of about 95 percent for Flash.

Click here to read about new features in Silverlight 2.

On a call with press and analysts, Microsoft corporate vice president Scott Guthrie said, "We knew it would take a few years to get the deployment where we wanted it to be." But, he added, being a year in with the technology and being able to claim one in four users is a win for Microsoft.

Brian Goldfarb, director of developer platforms at Microsoft, said he views Silverlight as a "massive success."

Goldfarb said, "We aren't going to take our foot off the pedal. There was never a question in my mind of whether we would reach ubiquity; it's always been a question of when."

It's easy to get excited about Silverlight and its increasing adoption, and the fact that Microsoft is bringing competition to that space. But 25 percent leaves a lot of room for growth. OK, I'll accept that Guthrie said in some countries adoption has reached up to 50 percent or more.

I used Silverlight to watch the Olympics, and that Silverlight deal was a big hit for Microsoft. Guthrie said Silverlight does really well in cases where people want to do live video, like the Olympics and the Democratic convention. Silverlight also does well among developers that "want to build RIA applications and are looking for a richer development platform," he said.

In addition to the new release, which will be available for download on Oct. 14, Microsoft announced a few open source-related initiatives related to Silverlight. Ironically, Adobe has been getting a lot of pressure to open-source Flash, although neither organization appears to be headed toward full-fledged open-sourcing of its RIA software.

Meanwhile, Guthrie said Microsoft has spoken with Apple about getting Silverlight on the iPhone, but like Adobe with Flash has been rebuffed. However, Guthrie said Microsoft's talks with Google about Android support have been more enlightening and the two companies are "looking at it." Moreover, Guthrie said Microsoft has been working with the Google Chrome development team and Silverlight 2 works well on Chrome.

All of these moves ought to help get Microsoft some more Silverlight ubiquity.