Silverlight, Microsoft's cross-browser plug-in technology for rich multimedia experiences, is making the rounds as an alternative to Adobe Systems's rival Flash platform. Early observers and users of Silverlight at the MIX08 conference in Las Vegas last week emphasized, among other things, its accommodations for .Net software development skills.
"The thing that makes Silverlight interesting, especially [for] .Net developers is that you can use C#," said Carl Kenne, a developer at .Net consultants Dotway in Sweden.
This is unlike the rival Adobe Systems Flash platform, which requires hiring external people familiar with Adobe's technology, Kenne said.
Still, in examining Silverlight's visual capabilities, as opposed to what Flash offers, Kenne could not really see a difference. Microsoft might say Silverlight offers sharper video capabilities, but Adobe would probably say the same thing about its own technology, said Kenne. "It's very similar. It's hard to just by looking at it see that this is Flash and this is Silverlight," Kenne said.
Another attendee also lauded Silverlight. "For us, it's a home run," said Andy Norris director of technology at Handel Information Technologies, which develops criminal justice and human services applications.
Silverlight enables development of the same application for the desktop and the Web, he said, noting that XAML can be used on both the desktop and browser, he said. "We can get everything done with less than half the work," said Norris.
Flash, he said, has been focused on designers as opposed to developers, "It's a really big deal for designers, and every designer out there knows Flash, but developers really haven't been a big part of the Flash story," Norris said.
But Norris expressed concern about follow-ups on pledges pertaining to the Silverlight platform. Silverlight is set to run on Linux and mobile clients but does not yet, Norris said. (A beta version of Silverlight for Linux, Novell's Moonlight software, is available.)
NBC's Perkins Miller, company vice president of digital media, cited at MIX08 NBC plans to stream 2,200 hours of live Olympics coverage using Silverlight. Microsoft's technology will enable, for example, a user to access a biography of basketball player LeBron James while watching USA Olympics basketball.
"The ability to sort of touch the screen and get information is something you can really only get with the Silverlight-enhanced product," Miller said in an interview after the conference.
In choosing Silverlight, Miller cited NBC's existing relationship with Microsoft via the MSNBC broadcast channel. "It was a broader partnership with Microsoft overall that really made this make sense, and, of course, the technology of Silverlight is really impressive," Miller said.