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.
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.