Microsoft blogger kurt Shintaku provides 10 reasons why he believes that Silverlight will succeed–particularly in a world of Flash (I’ve condensed some of his bulleted items):
1. Silverlight isn’t about copying Flash…”Silverlight is about providing a continuum for developers/designers/CTOs across the full Microsoft developer/designer product offering.”
2. Silverlight provides copy protection.
3. Silverlight provides “quality experience”.
4. Silverlight and Flash can coexist.
5. There are more Microsoft developers than Flash developers.
6. Total cost of ownership is less than that with Flash.
7. Many platforms possible.
8. Different technology.
9. Simple internationalization.
10. Can “upscale” to “more robust” client.
Hmmm. Whereas I agree that Microsoft can leverage its user base, developer community, and partner relationships to gain market share, it’ll be interesting to see how “accepted” Silverlight becomes–particiularly on the content provider side. For instance, will Microsoft on the first day’s launch of Silverlight, switch all of its Flash content on its site to Silverlight? Does it need to?
One point worthwhile making here is that Silverlight in itself should not be the end all here. In the ideal world, it’s capabilities should be transparent to users–hopefully built into the browser, which is easy enough to do in IE as well as Firefox if Microsoft really wanted to. A download is fine, but aren’t we really talking about lagging technology in the browsers? Didn’t Flash’s adoption grow because multi-media support and graphic support and (now) programming support within the browsers has been disappointingly poor? Same goes for PDF. Is a plug-in really the baseline for a core technology that people are seeking?
OK, that’s an issue that’ll get resolved over time. For now, Flash and Silverlight are best handled as downloads. No doubt. But let’s not lose sight of what’s going on here. I never wanted Flash. I don’t think most people have. Flash never would have grown as it has had browser innovation kept marching on. Ultimately we don’t need a Flash download replacement. We need progress in what the browsers can do. We need to be able to go beyond what we have today. To me, that’ll define the true success of Silverlight–or any other new technology. Enable more users to do what they want. Enable more people to “develop” even if they really aren’t developers. Enable more people to author, create, and inspire with their content. Do all or some of this and make it ten times less expensive and ten times easier to do and you might just have a winner.
In my book, Silverlight will be successful because of the sites and experiences that it makes practical, which were not practical before. YouTube leveraged Flash to provide an “it-just-works” video experience. This was a complete pain to do in the browser without Flash. What might Silverlight enable with its technologies? What about live broadcasting? Live broadcasting (using sites like Stickam and UStream.tv) was a big topic this last week. Does Silverlight video capabilities enable or enhance this? In what ways might a small, two person company leverage Silverlight video to create a broadcast community unlike anything before? Live switching of multiple cameras? Picture in picture? Real-time effects? Titling? Or what about customizable video delivery, such as Dave Winer is contemplating? This is one area I might look to when assessing Silverlight technology. There are tons more.