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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 elements are affecting Silverlight's chances.

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Silverlight is up against not only Flash, but also other established, and firmly entrenched, web technologies. "Silverlight is a threat to Flash and Flex for sure. For me, the really interesting competitors are companies like Google and Yahoo who depend on the web being primarily HTML/AJAX-based to serve up ads and provide other services," Cote says. "A new UI layer that runs on top of the web could be a real hassle for services that are used to the more 'view source' nature of the web."

Warden notes that a patched-together mix of Java, HTML and other technologies will pose probably the biggest challenge to Silverlight: "It'll be interesting to see if the .Net crowd does the same thing that Java guys are doing. Most .Net I see on the web is simple HTML/CSS/JavaScript and AJAX stuff," he said, referring to Asynchronous JavaScript and XML.

Co-existence in the market

Because it is installed on more than 90 percent of internet-connected PCs, Flash will remain the default choice for most web developers. For now.

"Flash Player is ubiquitous, and every developer takes that for granted. To win, Silverlight needs to have that perception, too," says Warden. "Users do not care what they install; they just care [that] what they are watching is relevant and cool."

He believes Microsoft is very committed to seeing Silverlight succeed, no matter what. "The amount of money, time and talent I'm seeing being thrown at it makes me fail to see how it won't succeed in some fashion," he says.

However, Microsoft will need to convince a high number of users to install Silverlight. DeMichillie estimates that as much as 80 percent of internet-connected PCs must have Silverlight installed for the platform to hold its own, in the market and among developers, against the status quo of Flash.

"Microsoft knows this is a prerequisite, which is why they are willing to spend money to make high-profile deals, like the one with NBC for Olympics coverage," he says.

DeMichillie foresees Silverlight eventually overcoming the dominance of Flash, but adds: "The market for these platforms is in the very early stages, so it's not a zero-sum game. Even in the longer term, I think coexistence is more likely than 'winner takes all'."

Even Warden acknowledges that his business plans to do more Silverlight work, though "I don't want to do it because it looks like early [versions of] Flash, and I'm done with that. I want more challenging Flex work instead."

  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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