Microsoft aims for Silverlight at end of the tunnel

The software maker concedes it has a long way to go to reach the ubiquity of Adobe's flash, but notes it has come a long way in a little less than two years.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read

SAN FRANCISCO--By next year, half of all devices connected to the Internet will have Silverlight, says Microsoft's Walid Abu-Hadba.

That will still be just a fraction of the number of phones and computers that have a version of Adobe's Flash, but Abu-Hadba said that it will be enough to really start changing the mindset of those who create content for the Web.

Abu-Hadba Microsoft

"It's a totally different game," said, Abu-Hadba, who leads Microsoft's developer and platform evangelism efforts. Abu-Hadba noted that Microsoft now has a set of features that can appeal to both those streaming large-scale Web video content, as well as software developers aiming to create programs that run inside of businesses.

His comments came following Microsoft's launch Friday of Silverlight 3, the latest version of its technology for rich media applications. The new version allows for programs that work in and out of the browser, supports up to 1080p streaming, and lets users pause and rewind a live video stream.

One of the areas where Microsoft still has work to do is on the phone side. Microsoft has long talked about offering Silverlight on phones, even hoping to bring it to Apple's iPhone, but today it is not commercially available for any phone.

"It's taken a little bit longer than we would have wanted, absolutely," said Abu-Hadba.

However, Abu-Hadba and fellow developer unit executive Scott Guthrie say that Microsoft has also taken the approach that it wants the Silverlight experience on the phone to match that offered on the PC, as opposed to having different versions as Adobe does with Flash. Also, Guthrie said, the landscape for the phone has changed dramatically, with more phones adding the kind of graphics chips necessary to do hardware-based acceleration.

"We want to make sure people have a 'wow' experience," Guthrie said.

Microsoft is beta testing its phone software for both Android and Windows Mobile and announcements are expected at this fall's Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles.

"You are going to hear a lot more details about it later this year," Guthrie said. (For more on Guthrie's take on Silverlight 3, check out the video embedded below.)

For his part, Abu-Hadba said he doesn't wonder if Silverlight will be around 10 years from now, but rather whether his rival will. He said that Adobe has committed itself to moving from a design-oriented company to one that aims to offer a general purpose Web platform, something he said the company doesn't have the resources or experiences to make happen.

"I don't believe they have the assets or the organizational structure," he said. "That's what we do for a living at Microsoft."

Abu-Hadba said Adobe would be better off picking a specialty and sticking to it.

"I don't think they will exist in 10 years in the form they are today," he said. It's a bold statement, he agreed, but added how unthinkable it would have been to predict in 2000 that Sun Microsystems would go away.

I'm checking in with Adobe. I'm thinking it might have a somewhat different take on the subject.