Mix, Silverlight and Windows Phone

A very exciting time at Mix this year, especially if your focus is Windows Phone or Silverlight.   On the Windows Phone front, the next release, code name Mango was announced.  Mango brings Windows Phone fully up to Silverlight 4, and will include over 1,500 new API calls and a number of features that will make programming the phone easier and faster.

Silverlight 5 Beta was released on the second day of Mix. Silverlight is a maturing product, and many of the enhancements shown reflect the key role Silverlight continues to play in the creation of Rich Internet Applications.  Not least among the new features is support for full 3-d objects.

A third player, of tremendous interest to many Silverlight developers, is HTML5 – both in terms of how Silverlight will interact with HTML5, and to what degree the latter’s features make Silverlight less critical in the creation of Internet sites and apps.  It is my personal opinion, after being asked about this repeatedly, that it is the wrong question.  There is no doubt about Microsoft’s commitment to both HTM5 and to Silverlight, and there is no doubt that the features are a disjoint set: that is, there is some overlap but each has its own strengths.

What I think is really driving the questions I’ve been hearing is a set of fears:

  • Will Microsoft continue to support and extend Silverlight?
  • Did I waste my time learning the wrong skills?
  • Will I have to learn new skills in coming years?

The answers to these questions, again in my opinion, are Yes, N0 and Of course, Yes.

That is, the Firestarter last fall, and now Mix should certainly have quieted any concerns that “Silverlight is dead.”  Reports of the death were tremendously exaggerated, and in fact Microsoft evidenced considerable commitment to extending and supporting Silverlight and integrating it into more of our technologies, not less.

Learning Xaml and Silverlight is therefore not at all a waste of your time. Silverlight continues to offer a world-class framework for web and desktop development, as well as being the framework for Windows Phone.

But yes, of course things will change. I don’t pretend to be able to predict how things will change, but having been a professional programmer for over two decades, I’m extremely happy to say that things change all the time; if they didn’t I’d still be coding in C for Unix.

Personally, I walk away from Mix convinced that HTML will be a meaningful part of the coding I will be doing as a Silverlight programmer, and thus I’m very curious and interested in how Silverlight and HTML work together.  I’m interested in where each one’s limitations are, and where the overlap lies.  There is much for me to perfect in my C# coding, and I will supplement that with more attention to JavaScript and JQuery.  This is all good, and fits well with the work I’ve been doing with Jon Galloway on The Full Stack.

The next six to twelve months should be fascinating and very busy: learning all that is new in Mango, exploring the potential for mixed apps with Silverlight and HTML, and integrating the new features of Silverlight 5.  Happy times.

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About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty is an independent consultant and programmer with three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects. He is the author of 2 dozen books and multiple Pluralsight courses, and has been a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer and a Xamarin MVP, Microsoft MVP and Telerik MVP.
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27 Responses to Mix, Silverlight and Windows Phone

  1. meni says:

    And there was wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Silverlight camp… BWAHAHAHAHAH

    Seriously, you can only blame yourselves. How could you miss the VB6 signs? OK, you are too young. Then how could you miss the ascend of the new websites, FB, gmail, flickr etc. I’m sure you dream at night that hotmail is being done right. In SL of course.

    Let me tell you a secret. For most LOB apps you don’t even need HTML5. HTML4 will do nicely. Even IE6 can be supported. Yes, it’s not that easy, and MSFT told you developing is easy. They just forgot to tell you about this small thing called STANDARDS.

    BWHAHAHAHAH.

    As an aside, the only way out of this conundrum, is MS opening dotnet completely and unequivocally. It will happen, i am willing to bet on it. Ask MS if it will happen not too late.

    • Sam says:

      I’m afraid of that day if it actually happens. Java is no better being open source vs. when it was a Sun product. In fact, I’d rather let a company keep control over such frameworks/languages then open source it. Open source’s biggest disadvantage is lack of accountability and hence loss of direction in general. There is no proof that any open source language/platform is better than a controlled platform like .NET!

      • meni says:

        Java might not be better after open-sourcing it but it seems to me that java-adoption is better.

        Until dotnet is open, no startup is going to even touch it. Also look at server-side dotnet. It’s not controversial as silverlight as it’s on premise. The only ones using it are some smaller (smallish) e-commerce sites. Look at the top 100 sites. Only Microsoft is using the Microsoft stack!

        • Sam says:

          Not everything is what it “seems” meni! Where are the numbers proving Java adoption is better?

          What do you mean no startup is going to touch it?! Even when Microsoft products were not free like they are for 3 years today using Bizspark for startups that are related to technology – I was working at a startup that made a decisive and intelligent decision to go with Microsoft (and not open source). Company has been successful since then.

          As for the top 100 sites, did you hear of the number 1 site in 2007 called: MySpace? It was a complete .NET shop! It’s not that .NET is not capable or that it cannot be used for developing high volume sites with millions of users – its just a choice and belief issue.

          You need to have knowledge to do things!

    • Peter Wone says:

      Let me tell YOU a secret, meni. You can hand-build a working car, if you have more money and time than common sense. You can even make it look nice. But most people lack the skill to finish the job at all, much less do a good job.

      HTML5 and AJAX is like Lego Mindstorm. The bits that are really hard to do are handled for you as prefabricated motors, bearings, couplings, controllers etc. This makes a less shattered toolset, but good luck leaving the straight and narrow. While there’s little need to do so for LoB, you web twats can’t help yourselves because you are convinced of your matchless genius.

      But I am somewhat concerned; even a stopped clock like meni can be right twice a day. Signals from Microsoft continue to be very mixed.

  2. Shayan says:

    Microsoft must focus on silverlight for LOB application.

  3. Sam says:

    Jesse, why is Microsoft shying away from Silverlight? HTML 5 is not a native Microsoft product. Why all these silly articles from corporate vice presidents? Microsoft needs to re-direct its energy and focus back to Silverlight and make it the de-facto standard to do not only UI but apps as well – in all Windows-based devices – PCs, phones, xbox 360 consoles, in the future – tablets, etc. The Microsoft App store that is going to open with Windows 8, needs to accept apps written in Silverlight. Make it consistent and easy for Microsoft developers. While web-based development could happen in HTML 5 (why hasn’t the ASP.NET team updated the old and out-dated toolset to support HTML 5 with Ajax/jquery?), Microsoft should promote Silverlight for development of native apps for all platforms.

    ASP.NET now looks like a 2008 product. From MIX, I got mixed signals about Microsoft’s strategy about web-based development. In the past year or so, Microsoft is trying to be too friendly with open-source based efforts and that is causing too many headaches for Microsoft developers. What about ASP.NET???! What about productivity with ease of use that comes with ASP.NET? What is wrong with Microsoft?! Don’t you guys understand pretty soon Microsoft will have no identity if it can’t keep faith in its own products!

    Very frustrating!

    • Sam,

      I’m afraid I just disagree… I don’t think any part of Microsoft is shying away from Silverlight. If you watch the firestarter from the fall and you watch the sessions at Mix, there is no sense on my part that we’re diminishing our investment; just the opposite. Key is that we can embrace both Silverlight and HTML5, one does not exclude the other.

      • Sam says:

        Jesse, it does not matter whether you agree or not, I don’t see anything from Microsoft to backup your enthusiasm and commitment. Nothing. Firestarter was damage control due to developer outrage at Microsoft. Mix was failure as far as Silverlight part was concerned. We want to see clear direction from Microsoft on what Silverlight can and will be used for. We know its strong for LoB and on the web to deliver “media” related content. During Mix, there was no talk about LoB. Just a ridiculous 3D Scott model and a house model with more Scott obsession. Silvelight is being relegated to some niche or comical use. Why is Dean H afraid to use the word “Silverlight”? Why is Microsoft showing what a mess it has created by bringing in thousands of open source nonsense into VS.NET 2010? Why are they talking about Javascript/jquery? What about ASP.NET? What about Microsoft’s own products?

      • Sam says:

        Sorry – the Silverlight sessions were indeed great. But the keynote was miserable.

  4. Sebastian says:

    Well, on the one hand, I think Microsoft has done a remarkable job in bringing Silverlight to browsers, phones and gaming consoles. Even better, the Metro UI brought a really slick design piece to the world of IT.

    One the other hand, I agree with a number of commenters here: Sorry to say, but you are not doing a good job in building trust in your technologies and outlining their future. I have a really hard time in our group, arguing why Silverlight isn’t dead and will probably an important part of the Microsoft UI development strategy.

    And I have a hard time making a personal career choice about technology – yes, I have read the article at the Silverlight team blog (http://team.silverlight.net/announcement/standards-based-web-plug-ins-and-silverlight/) and it did not make things clearer to me (and I don’t think that’s because I am not a native speaker). Also, I have to admit I don’t have the slightest clue on how and where Microsoft’s strategy is going concerning Silverlight and WPF. And this is complicated further when we take things like Surface and Kinect into account.

    So what I (and possibly of couple of others) are missing is the big picture on Microsoft’s UI development strategy and possibly also a set of guidelines for technology choice or at least recommendations what technology Microsoft envisions us to use for specific use cases..

    Best,
    S.

  5. Eduardo says:

    Jesse:
    What can you say about the next?:
    I think that the communication protocols and the User interfaces are currently the main walls that separate the great RIA / desktop applications and the Web applications. If Microsoft (MS) would be capable to join these two worlds using some kind of interface that could allow to convert from HTML5 applications to RIA and from RIA to HTML5, the uncertainty would disappear and the confidence would be restored by conviction. This interface should be developed by MS itself (not third party companies) at the same rate as it develops tools for HTML 5 and Silverlight, I think there would be many benefits for both, MS and the developers.
    Regards.

  6. Carl Taswell says:

    Nitpicking on the math reference…. but disjoint sets have NO elements in common. So if two sets have any overlap, they are not disjoint.

  7. Tom says:

    Jesse, thanks for clarifying your position. however you did not clarify why microsoft is dropping the hat when it comes to silverlight. mix demos were disappointing to say the least and prior to the silverlight section towards the end – no one mentioned anything about silverlight – not even when joe was talking about the phone he never even hinted that silverlight is the tool that brings developer’s work to life on the phone… he didnt have to, but it would have been reassuring. we dont think microsoft is committed to silverlight the way it was 1-2 years ago. while we understand time changes things and technology changes faster than time, microsoft never realized the potential of silverlight at all other than trying it out for the new phone. show us that you guys are not just committed but also that silverlight is still a first class citizen and will also be used as a platform to develop apps in future devices like tablets using windows and possibly also on xbox. show us that we can safely continue to invest in this technology for building great LoB apps

  8. Hi Jesse

    Mango brings Windows Phone fully up to Silverlight 4…..

    Does the browser that will be delivered, will be able to load a this ASP page wich have silverlight 4 apps.
    http://mpeapps.com/Demobeta.aspx

    If yes, Great!!! Youppi!!, Ho Boy!!!! I need to go back and re-activate my personal project

  9. Jesse liberty says:

    You read way too much into the change made long ago to the subtitle of this blog — in fact I made it when I switched blogging engines.

    My focus has evolved from Silverlight alone to Silverlight + phone to Silverlight + phone + related technologies.

    But while individuals at Msoft may change jobs or focus, that is no indication of lack of corporate commitment.

    I can assure you my faith in Silverlight will outlive any change in focus… In fact I’ve probably worked with Silverlight longer than any technology over the past 20 years.

  10. bv says:

    From Fallon’s comment: “Should developers believe what their told, or believe they lying eyes?” (he meant to write “they are” I believe)
    I agree with what tom, sam and Fallon are saying. I just stopped bothering about Silverlight after Day 2’s keynote. If the conviction that “SL is great, lets rally behind it” exists in MSFT, I don’t see it. Mix was great venue to show off SL LoB but alas it was disappointing

  11. Tom says:

    to add to the point of sam, jesse, why did you change your blog title to code to live. live to code? it was silverlight geek right? tim heuer doesnt talk much about silverlight these days, his blog posts contain smashing themes for months prior to silverlight 5 beta release. no one really cares now. you guys blew it. mix, pdc conferences carefully avoid using the word silverlight and only after developer uproar and anger, you guys decided to do damage control and have a fire starter and mention silverlight towards the end of the mix 2011. very bad for a beautiful product and we thought microsoft finally got something right…

  12. Tom says:

    robert, i agree with Sam’s view and disagree with your view. developers can decide what to use as we are most familiar with our tools and choice of technologies available. we work with business needs and requirements daily and we have clear vision of what we can and should not use. i also agree that microsoft is losing its focus from a great product that has limitless potential and for no reason pushing it back. demos of 3d models and others things are ok but we want more direction from microsoft regarding LoB applications and also need reassurance that Windows 8 will have silverlight support right out of the box.

  13. Robert Lair says:

    Regarding Sam’s post above, I disagree with you point that developers want to make the decisions of what technology to use. I don’t think most developers want to make the decision themselves…. They want MSFT to show them a clear roadmap of what technologies work best for different scenarios. While I agree with your frustration on Silverlight — I am an author of a beginning level Silverlight book and I am sure this is going to dramatically affect sales — I do still hold out some hope for Silverlight since it doesn’t appear that MSFT really knows what things are going to look like yet concerning HTML5 and Silverlight. At MIX I noticed that the only technology that got huge applause was Silverlight… Microsoft is not deaf, I am sure they noticed as well.

  14. John Bloom says:

    What I found strange was that Microsoft has been telling us that Silverlight is a great Line of Business story and I think a lot of people jumped on board because of that. We did and we are not regretting it. Then at MIX they show us a consumer website and a 3D modeling program. This stuff is nice but it is not LoB.

    If Microsoft wanted to calm the speculations that Silverlight is here to stay they should have shown us really big LoB applications that look nice and pack the kind of power that HTML5 cant. I think a lot of people who are writing Enterprise applications would have benefited from seeing other people’s accomplishments and innovations but instead we got more of the Silverlight as media player story. I think they missed a great opportunity.

  15. Richard Reukema says:

    So if html5 is so app ready, and wp7 has ie9, are we to build apps in html5 for the phone? What happened to the marketplace?

    I get that HTML5 is suppose to be xplatform, xbrowser compatible to enable the greatest reach, so why not celebrate both? I totally agree with Sam.

    Personally I think somebody at MS is looking more at the competition rather than at there own technology. That energy is wasted, confusing , and misplaced.

  16. Fallon says:

    I agree with Sam, the behavior of Microsoft is very strange indeed, and I’m a fan of having the BEST HTML we can get in the browser, and a HUGE supporter of MS making IE relevant again.

    IMO, a strong IE bodes well for Silverlight, since it just happens to be the delivery vehicle, but there is also another reason I want IE & HTML to succeed.

    I can’t and wouldn’t use Silverlight to build a consumer facing website! At 70% penetration, it’s sucide to use it, so I need HTML 5 to work so that I can keep that part of the business alive to deliver Silverlight for the internal apps and administrative functions. This is a winning combination, and has bee our game plan since Silverlight hit version 2 beta.

    However, the way Microsoft has handled HTML 5 is like treating your own kids great, and the poor step child like a dog. I can see they’re proud of the new baby, but you don’t have to treat the toddler(Silverlight) like an interloper.

    I know you’re saying that what people are thinking is wrong, MS is committed to Silverlight, but actions generally speak louder than words, and unfortunately in this case BOTH the actions and the words aren’t conducive to trust.

    Should developers believe what their told, or believe they lying eyes?

    Having said all of that, I feel ULTRA Positive about where MS is going! This is an exciting time to be a developer, and I’m loving every minute of it. If I could tell MS anything, it would be to be a bit more diplomatic.

    I have no trouble in the HTML(Javascript/CSS) world and I swim heavily in Silverlight(C#), PHP, C++, and Java with equal ease. But that isn’t everyone, and the actions that make people fearful are those that threaten what they know.

    Now Go Microsoft, and teach Google and Apple how to build a developer community, and whip their butts on SmartPhones & Tablets… ARM Baby!!!

  17. Sam says:

    Jesse,
    Unfortunately, the damage is already done. I just can’t convince myself to understand Microsoft’s position on this HTML5 subject when it comes to Silverlight. Why is Microsoft the only company out there thats fighting so vigorously and openly for HTML5 (and that too at the expense of its own product – Silverlight)? It’s very strange and I’m totally confused about this.

    We (developers) understand the importance of web standards and future of the web and HTML5. Why does Microsoft have to endlessly run this debate – intentionally or not – about where to use Silverlight and where not to. Let the developers decide (of course any clear cut guidance is always welcome).

    What Microsoft should be focusing its energy on is to PROMOTE and take advantage of the potential of Silverlight in relevant areas and NOT endlessly tout about HTML5 (and hence giving your audience the feel that Microsoft is now ignoring and putting Silverlight in the backstage). IE9 is done and we know it has HTML5 support, ok end of story. Please get the focus back on where (and how) you plan to keep Silverlight and its potential to use (besides the WP7) and how a Microsoft product can keep itself relevant!

    Frankly, it is disappointing to learn such a beautiful technology and then find out 1-2 years later, OMG its back to Javascript and the crap that comes with it…

  18. Evan Hutnick says:

    Well said, Jesse. We are looking at a very exciting time for all of these technologies and more people should be as open minded about where this is all going.

  19. Can’t wait to view HTML5 content on Windows Phone hardware. #html5 #wp7 #mango
    All are designs’ going to rock!

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