Silverlight ups the Ante - Flex still rules

On October 24th, Rob Zelt presented Silverlight to the Raleigh Durham Adobe User Group. I blogged about this on and promised to keep an open mind.

Silverlight is an impressive piece of technology in its own right. I was impressed by a number of features in the technology. A number of misconceptions I held were dispelled and I throughly enjoyed the presentation.

I want to give a big Thank You to Rob Zelt for coming to RDAUG and presenting on Silverlight. Rob is a very good presenter and knowledgeable on a variety of technology topics.

The good:


Silverlight has some very good tooling. I give the edge to Microsoft over Adobe in RIA for RIA tooling.

Ease of use:

Rob showed how to easily give behaviour to an existing image asset and export to XAML. The wizard based workflow was drop dead simple.

Cross Platform Capabilities:

Rob showed the RDAUG (r-dawg) demonstration (Silverlight runtime required) on IE and Firefox. The demo functioned equally well.

Vector Graphics Support:

Silverlight supports Vector Graphics.

Embedding Video:

Rob showed how to embed video assets. The video viewer was also skinnable and brandable. Once again, the tooling was excellent and made this task drop dead simple.

The bad and ugly:


I love JavaScript. I really do. I don't love the variable platform implementations. This does nothing but add hidden time to the development cycle. I expect more from Rich InteractiveInternet Application Platforms

Cross Browser:

I applaud Microsoft for going cross platform. However, historically, Microsoft has very poor cross-browser implementations.

Developer Platform:

The tooling for Silverlight is impressive. However, the developer must be using Microsoft Windows. This is an unfair limitation by modern standards. It also hinders developer testing on alternate platforms since a machine can not serve as a developer environment and a testing environment for alternate platforms.

Unproven Technology:

The early previews of Sparkle Silverlight were unimpressive. Flex draws on the rich and robust heritage of the Flash Player.

Weak Install Base:

The Silverlight runtime is not broadly installed. I am sure Microsoft will push the Silverlight runtime as a mandatory Windows Update, but this means alternate platforms will have to manually download and install. Microsoft would have probably been better off to base their product off the Flash Virtual Machine and fight based on tool quality.

Closing thoughts

I was clearly impressed with the technological capabilities of Silverlight and with the excellent designer/developer workflow. I don't trust Microsoft to provide a level playing field in a technological arena that threatens their core OS market.

With Flex, Adobe delivered a robust RIA technology, supporting developers on a variety of platforms and rendering consistently on a variety of platforms. Such capabilities are key in the modern computing arena.

Over the years, my main beef with Microsoft was the lack of competition. Competition pushes the envelope and stimulates creativity. My favorite benefit of Silverlight is the pressure now placed on Adobe to continue to provide the best RIA technology on the market. While still firmly planted in the Adobe ring, I look forward to a very interesting, creative RIA war!

The content for this article was to the best of my remembrance. The state of technology changes rapidly and my memory degrades rapidly. Please submit any factual corrections in the comments

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