Silverlight, HTML5 and the state of RIAs

4 11 2010

So you’ve obviously heard about these statements regarding Silverlight – insinuating that Microsoft is going to abandon it in favour of HTML5 due to revelations at PDC2010. If you haven’t, here are the main links in this debacle:

One issue I have with this hype about MS abandoning Silverlight is that most of it is based on the following statement from MS, in an interview by ZDNet (see first link):

Silverlight will continue to be a cross-platform solution, working on a variety of operating system/browser platforms, going forward, he said. “But HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything, including (Apple’s) iOS platform,” Muglia said.

Inferring from this that MS is pulling the plug on SL is pure hype. I daresay MS haven’t helped their cause by being more tight-lipped that usual over the issue, but PR has never been their strong suit.

Unfortunately, it tends to be people like MG (the TechCrunch article author) who jump on the sensationalist bandwagon. It may turn out that MS will eventually abandon Silverlight, but I seriously have my doubts. I honestly believe that they logically see their original goal of true “reach” severely hampered; what with iOS and Android now thrown into the mix since conception. Adobe haven’t done much differently – except that when they announce their HTML5 strategy (as they did last week at MAX), it’s to thunderous applause; they’re obviously much better at crowd-control.

Both of the big boys seem to understand that they cannot expect their platforms to be a presence on every single device, and they need a complementary strategy to remain viable to us developers – enter “HTML5”.

I can understand the apprehension amongst the RIA community – the religious connotations that permeate most of the Flex/Silverlight debate (RIA evangelists anyone?), would make one think we’re arguing about our very souls, rather than simply a career choice. Even if both Flash and Silverlight died tomorrow, we’d be in a pretty comfortable position to shift allegiances to any other rich client technology out there.

Let’s face it – RIAs are not going anywhere. The users have spoken.