Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Gu to the rescue..

Well mostly.

I think much of the already shaky acceptance of Silverlight won't be solved by Mr. Guthrie's post (I'm talking globally here.  Let's be realistic, it's not exactly synonymous with Flash in terms of wide spread acceptance or even general public knowledge.  If I had a dime for every post I've seen that says "What's Silverlight?  I've avoided installing it because I don't know what it is..."...)

Mr. Guthrie did a good thing by attempting to smooth all this over. Given that there's a Chief Architect position open at Microsoft right now, it was probably a VERY good career move to do so.  Mr. Guthrie is one of the few individuals at Microsoft upper management that I know of that has commanded the respect and admiration of the Microsoft development community out of pure honesty and sincerity.  Heck, I know a couple of Microsoft haters that have nothing but good things to say about him.  Kudos Mr. Guthrie.  While I don't think this is a 100% improvement over Bob's version, nor is it exactly what all the developers wanted to hear, I'm betting more will certainly like your take on it by quite a bit.

I'm actually a bit surprised at the number of developers that were personally affected by BobMu's ZDNet interview and subsequent follow up on the Silverlight Team blog. There are several who have claimed that the fuster-cluck and mishandling of the Silverlight "strategy shift" have alienated projects they had championed.  Clients, who were once on board with it suddenly are not.

I can luckily say that the Silverlight applications I've championed and been involved with at work have had a very small audience (speaking in the global terms I spoke of above).  In fact, I green-lit Silverlight as the framework for our next application.  But the scope of usage is very well defined (Windows users only, connected to the intranet).  The fact it will probably run on a Mac too is just an irrelevant bonus. From the sounds of the Gu clarification of Mu clarification of the Mu interview, ours is a relatively safe use case (though to be fair, i don't think that was unclear in BobMu's clarification or his original interview).

However the reason for doing this wasn't so much the superior technology.  It wasn't even really the development tools.  We could easily accomplish the same thing with Winform or WPF.  It has a more to do with leveraging the reusable components we already had and how much easier/stable the deployment is strategy is in Silverlight.  If we had not already had a sizable investment in "ramp  up", and weren't already familiar with nuances, it would have been an extremely tough sell to management, let alone the rest of the team.

I still don't think those at Microsoft (including Scott Guthrie) completely understand the biggest complaint in all of this.  I think in the end, a good portion of the Silverlight community wanted a better Flash/Air, including the ability to run it on most platforms (or at the very least, as many as Flash can run on plus a couple more).  The only proof they need is from Microsoft's own feature request site (as of this writing, 5,417 votes and easily the top requested feature by over 1,500 votes)

Somehow, I doubt the expectation from the development community was that it would be on every product from your PC to your toaster.  I think the expectation was at LEAST the same platforms as Flash.  Or in other words, the top 8 most popular and feasible ones.  Heck, Microsoft owns at least 3 or 4 of those.  I think most developers would even be fine with the idea of it being an application framework with binary compatibility only at design time (which would make iOS deployment a real possibility).

A few weeks back, I wrote an entry on my predictions for PDC.  And while I was correct on a couple of minor items, I was WAY off in regard to the Silverlight strategy.  

In that entry, I noted that there is known evidence of Silverlight running on Moblin (and presumably Meego).  I was also pretty sure we would see Silverlight applications on the Xbox as well.  Especially since there is a Silverlight player on the Xbox 360 TODAY that developers outside of Microsoft do not have access to. 

Not to mention, they have a great symbiosis with the Mono team at Novell.  Given the proper authority, resources, and patent safety (beyond the Office leverage Novell already has), I suspect that team would be a great work horse to implement Silverlight-accurate Moonlight versions on other platforms while the Silverlight home team drives the core version forward.

So, I believe the cross platform story is attainable, and I suspect there is even a couple ports of it that are in 80-95 percentile area of completion.  But politically or otherwise, despite the fact it's something Microsoft's developer customers want (the top requested feature, to be exact), it's essentially over.

Of course, you never know what they are planning.  Optimistically, perhaps they are saving a big surprise for MIX 2011.  If that's the case, I think it would be a good idea to play one of those cards now (say the XBox one, if it exists).  And they best be prepared for the usual questions around Silverlight for Android (at the very least).  To be honest with you, I suspect a solution to that one platform would be enough to win everything back.