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Six factors that will make or break Microsoft's Silverlight

Industry views on whether Silverlight can win

Since its release last year, Microsoft's Silverlight has been championed as a serious contender to Adobe's Flash but developers and end users have been slow to adopt the software. We've spoken to some industry analysts and professional web developers to get their views on what's affecting Silverlight's chances.

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The enduring appeal of Flash development

Adobe is the clear leader today, but while Flash has improved technically over the years, it is still quirky from the perspective of hard-core development," says Hilwa.

But Flash continues to appeal most to web designers and animators, despite improvements that are coming to the next version of Silverlight. "Version 1 of Silverlight was okay. Version 2.0 is definitely hot, especially when compared to where Flash Player 9.0 is at," says Warden. "Regardless, I'll currently stick to Flex and Flash. It's currently more fun, and there is more money in it."

Wider cross-platform support

"I'm always waiting for the .Net Common Language Runtime (CLR) to be a big deal. But without solid cross-platform support on runtime and tools, the CLR's benefits are limited to Windows developers," says Cote. "If there's a good cross-platform and even, dare I say it?, open-source [feature] when it comes to runtimes and tools, new developers will be interested as well."

In fact, Warden's advice for Adobe to continue to make its Flex system competitive with Silverlight coincides with Cote's view on what Microsoft should do for future iterations of Silverlight: "Keep the open-source mentality going strong, and keep up with the Linux support.

Interest beyond traditional developers

Warden says present demand for Silverlight development in his field is "extremely low". He describes the amount of work a busy developer can get as "one [job] a day for Flash" compared with "one every four months for Silverlight".

"Most work I'm seeing [for Silverlight] is because the company is a Microsoft partner," he says.

Regardless, the analysts see significant interest in developing on the platform, even among those who are not programmers. "Many folks I know in the design community are taking a good look at it," says Hilwa.

DeMichillie is keeping an eye on the possibility of Silverlight making inroads in the enterprise.

"This could be a market in which Microsoft has an advantage over Adobe. Silverlight is a threat to Flash and Flex for sure. For me, the really interesting competitors are companies like Google and Yahoo."

"The interesting question is when, if ever, will corporations turn to RIA technologies for internal applications. Microsoft clearly has a stronger presence among corporate developers. At this point, RIA development is overwhelmingly aimed at public web sites," says DeMichillie.

NEXT PAGE: How the future looks for Silverlight

  1. Industry views on whether Microsoft Silverlight will overtake Flash
  2. The potential for cross-platform support
  3. How the future will pan out for Microsoft Silverlight

Get Silverlight here.

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