What to Expect With SilverLight 1.1 Alpha

Over the past few weeks, Microsoft has been making a lot of announcements about SilverLight (formerly WPF/E). At NAB, they showcased some of its video capabilities and at MIX, they announced that it would have CLR support within browsers. After talking to some of the people that developed SilverLight at MIX and working with the beta and alpha tools over the past week, I’ve come to a few conclusions about SilverLight.

The video handling capabilities of SilverLight are impressive. During MIX, there were several demos showing multiple video streams being shown in one application, many of which were in motion and had various types of masks. The demos looked great at MIX, but what surprised me most is that they looked just as good on my 3 year old desktop at home and the applications were surprisingly easy to build. This is one area where SilverLight is definitely going to be the top dog.

The other great feature about SilverLight is the CLR integration. The in-browser CLR extension allows access to almost the entire .NET framework, from a client side app. It also uses XAML, the same presentation markup as WPF for the desktop. It’s nice because Microsoft isn’t trying to force developers into a new language. It’s also nice because it makes for a much more robust development experience than working with AJAX or even Flash.

To work with the .NET side of SilverLight, you will need the SilverLight 1.1 Alpha,

Amidst the discussion of SilverLight’s features, there has also been a lot of talk about how Flash will be affected. While at MIX, some of the demos I saw definitely showed that SilverLight had the potential of stealing a big chunk of Flash’s market share. However, after working with it for a little while, it is a bit weaker than Flash in some areas.

SilverLight currently has a very sparse control set, so building common interfaces can be a bit of a chore. There is a sample control set from Microsoft, but it’s still somewhat limited. At MIX, they did announce plans for more controls, but it will likely be a few months out. The other area where SilverLight is weak is the design tool. Most of the SilverLight tools in the Expression Suite are quite robust for version 1.0 tools, but Expression Design definitely feels a little thin when compared to Adobe’s tools.

In the SilverLight vs. Flash battle that’s starting, there really isn’t a clear frontrunner. Microsoft has really nailed the development aspect, but it will take a lot to beat Adobe at developing design tools. Whichever platform can support both audiences better will win in the end.

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  • Divine

    I would like it to be a TIE! :)~

  • Brian

    Yes, thank you. I’m reading all these posts about Flash vs AJAX vs Silverlight and they seem to be missing the point – in the real world it all depends on the use-case scenario. For example, I work for a large real-estate firm and we faced these problems:

    – We had to develop an online space planner application with dynamic resizing, drag and drop and color capabilities and it had to work across multiple platforms. Winner, hands-down – Flash 8

    – We had to develop a dynamic list of our properties based on a user’s access level within Active Directory. Winner – ASP.NET

    – We need to develop an online training video with some basic interaction (next, previous, etc). Winner – Silverlight?

  • http://ian.sundermedia.com Ian Muir

    I would have to agree, a tie would be great. It would be great to see Flash become a more specialized tool for animation and SilverLight took over as a tool better suited for RIA apps.

    However, in my experience developers have frequently had a hard time accepting that tools can be equal but different. Many feel they need to take a side.

  • mihd

    Many feel they need to take a side.

    ..and flame the other side, a good developer would have their foot in every bucket

  • LiQ

    One big advantage for Silverlight (small L, check the official logo) must really come with Vista SP1, if Microsoft does this right.

    The natural thing is to include Silverlight in .NET 3.5/4.0 (Orcas). Then people with slow connections or high security levels don’t need to download the 50 MB install that is Flash.

    This would leave us at, in a few years, that sites doesn’t need “if you don’t have Silverlight (Flash!!), please visit this page”. It will make the feeling more seemless as well.

    It will be interesting to see what level Visual Studio Orcas will be at after Silverlight has been out ½ year, compared to what Flash had after ½ year. (Of course it’s like comparing C# to Java, cheating, but still fun ;))

  • http://www.dotcomwebdev.com chris ward

    They’ll just roll it out with the next windows update, like they did back in the day with IE/win98, but this time they’ll be releasing a quality, standards-based, product.

    game over flash