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Discussions, news and rants from the CTO of DevExpress, Julian M Bucknall

A story for Halloween: Is Silverlight a Zombie?

This morning, Mary Jo Foley  of ZDNet, published an article called Microsoft: Our strategy with Silverlight has shifted, in which she describes the fact that Silverlight has been all but missing from the current PDC2010, and then proceeds to quote Bob Muglia (president of server and tools):

Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone,” he said. Silverlight also has some “sweet spots” in media and line-of-business applications, he said.

But when it comes to touting Silverlight as Microsoft’s vehicle for delivering a cross-platform runtime, “our strategy has shifted,” Muglia told me.

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.

This is exactly the same story that came out about six weeks ago from Scott Barnes, a former Silverlight PM at Microsoft, after he presumably had some private chats with people he knew. The main conclusion from his blog post was that Silverlight is being pushed aside for web technologies in favor of HTML5 with IE9 driving it all. Oh, and that WPF is dead.

The thing for me is that WPF and Silverlight were two of the future tracks for .NET (the third being ASP.NET MVC). Failure of either or both (I’m still uncertain as to how important Windows Phone 7 is going to be, especially as the launch seemed to be a bit of a washout), will mean that .NET’s future will be tied to ASP.NET MVC and — you guessed it — HTML5. (I’m especially struck by Anders Hejlsberg’s presentation yesterday at PDC10 on async programming in C# 5; very oriented to the web, I’d say.) And given the importance of web programming for mobile devices versus native apps — especially for so-called business apps rather than gaming — it’s looking like Silverlight is turning into a zombie.

So, what do you think?

Published Oct 29 2010, 11:23 AM by
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Comments

Nate Laff

That's fk'n great...

October 29, 2010 2:50 PM

Michael Thuma

Assuming you are not toally wrong ...  web works this way:). HTML, CSS, HTTP and Javascript. Beside this it will be very hard to convince someone whose focus on the frontend must be on superb visual style and usability to use anything else.

Desktop apps are not in the focus currently ... there are enough ... tell me something you miss.

October 29, 2010 3:06 PM

Neal

Yeah, nothing like taking the winds out of the sails to those that moved forward with scripting.net (WPF/SL).  Glad I stuck by Winforms.  The core will never die (winforms/asp.net).  Going to be a very interesting few years.  Sorry to say but I think WPF/SL is the "vista" curse in developer tools.

October 29, 2010 3:07 PM

Boris Bosnjak

@Nate Laff: ditto!  Sigh :(

October 29, 2010 3:34 PM

Robert Beaubien

After using both of them, I never did understand the draw.  What's DevEx going to do now AFTER having spent all that money on WPF/SL tools?

October 29, 2010 4:01 PM

IOANNIS MPOURKELIS

I prefer Windows Forms, ASP.NET and pure SQL

October 29, 2010 5:00 PM

Brad Raulston

I wouldn't bet the farm on Mary Jo, she's been wrong more times than not

October 29, 2010 5:06 PM

Martin Pelletier

We shall see. But I love WPF. I think it's kinda the fault of Microsoft for doing WPF the way it was. In Winform, you drop a DevExpress Ribbon, you use the excellent designer that comes with it. On WPF, if you could use the same designer as the Winform one, it would have been allot easier.

What I want to say, WPF is very cool, but can be allot of work typing in xaml sometimes. If it makes more time to create an WPF app than a Winform, why use WPF then?

By saying "WPF is dead" scares me. I still like to create native application and I try to work more with WPF since the rendering is faster on Vista and Win7.

October 29, 2010 5:24 PM

Peter Thorpe

I hope this has been blown out of proportion. Silverlight has grown into a great platform. I was hoping going forward Silverlight would not compete with HTML 5 but instead replace winforms apps where it is difficult to achieve the same kind of user experience and speed. The advantages being an easy deployment and some cross platform support.  WPF doesn't have the same appeal for me.

October 29, 2010 5:33 PM

Marc Greiner (DevExpress MVP)

Hi Julian ;

I think that your blog post tells nothing that we already knew:

1. Silverlight is Microsoft's development platform for Windows Phone:

We know that since a while. It will certainly enable the birth of nice apps for the Windows phones.

2. Silverlight also has some “sweet spots” in media and line-of-business applications:

Yes, sure it has, and we also knew it since a (too) long time, since ASP, even ASPx times, almost 10 years of struggling:

Every developer who had to go from client-server to web knows that using html to develop LOBs is like going back in time and use the wrong tools.

Silverlight is much more than an alternative, if ever there are some good controls for it. It seems that the DevExpress SL controls will make it soon become true.

3. Silverlight will continue to be a cross-platform solution, working on a variety of operating system/browser platforms, going forward:

Well, these are good news, very good news indeed.

What more could we expect?

4. HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything:

Again, nothing new here.

However, I find it too hard to develop the web apps that my clients need, by using html, javascript, css, etc., even with your very good ASPx and MVC controls.

5. Silverlight is being pushed aside for web technologies in favor of HTML5:

Well, after the rush from SL 1, 2, 3, 4 in such a short period, with a product that has now reached kind of a full set of features, we could be hoping to catch up, wouldn't you think?

There is no ground to write anything negative about SL and WPF at this time.

October 29, 2010 5:50 PM

Scott Wylie

Not sure how you can say the launch of WP7 was a washout based on ONE persons review.  A washout would be no sales and no interest. Based on the reviews and over 1000 apps in the Marketplace before phones are even launched in the US is quite premature to say it is a washout.

October 29, 2010 6:17 PM

Sigurd Decroos

As long as MS Windows needs 'Windows' to show the apps, WinForms will be available. WPF and SL are showing to be nice and attractive alternatives, but they're not more than that, alternatives. HTML on the other hand has a lot more potential, certainly since broadband is becoming more and more spread around the world and the prices drop a lot.

My bet is on HTML in the end, when Windows 9 will be a purely webbased OS :).

October 29, 2010 7:14 PM

Crono

No doubt Microsoft will invest in HTML5... but backing up on SL/WPF? No way.

Let's not forget what Winforms really is: it's a .NET front for a 20 y.o. or so api. Even though it won't be tomorrow, it NEEDS to die and be replaced.

October 29, 2010 7:58 PM

Defacto Software

Starting from Delphi and switch to C# the way to develop application seems to be become more problematic and less RAD. With each new generation of development platforms there is a trend to more hand-coding tags and whatever, in the process creating more work and less functionality.

So while I appreciate the issues DevExpress is facing I'm happy to say that it is (mostly) not my problem anymore: I'm using XAF and do not loose time figuring out how to do a 'print hello world '  in Silverlight, WPF, HTML5, <next platform> anymore.

I just wait for XAF to support the platform, otherwise no go.

October 30, 2010 3:32 AM

Christopher D. Todd

I don't think it is such a far stretch for MS to make such a sudden and dramatic shift in direction. Look how fast they dropped support for Linq to SQL in favor of Entity Framework. It barely had time to breath outside the womb before MS shunned it. This will be interesting to watch.

October 30, 2010 8:25 AM

Raoulw

Julian,

I think DevExpress needs to stop jumping on the MS bandwagon everytime there is something new. If you would have spent these resources fixing issues in the support center "Accepted, release TBD" or "Cant Reproduce" your customers would have been a lot happier.

DX needs to focus on what their custimers need NOW instead of some new technology that maybe one day will catch on...

What your customers are doing now is developing and maintaining winforms and vcl apps.

Stop hiring bloggers, twitterers, facebookers, video directors and start hiring QA engineers that can reproduce my bugs when I report them. That's what we (Your customers) pay you to do.

Raoul.

October 30, 2010 11:37 AM

Mateus Lopess

Winforms is Dead ?

Delphi is Dead ?

October 30, 2010 11:43 AM

Neal

Here Here Raoul!!  Less mouthpieces/evangelists, more developers/testers!  Absolutely!

Microsoft has always wanted to do everything in the Web and they got stung in the legal world..remember the including browser in the OS???  

Silverlight on WP7, they are probably going to make their own iOS.  SL is a layer/bandaid, get ready for more change.  Windows Mobile turned SL turned what next??? mOS?

I'm going back to VB6!  Any update to my DX ActiveX controls yet? :)

This isn't a halloween article, it's a who stole Christmas article!  Who's the Grynch? :)

October 30, 2010 12:46 PM

sean kearon

WPF is here to stay.  Visual Studio is built on top of it and there will be more.  The acid test will be: Office on WPF (in vNext + 1, IMO).

October 30, 2010 1:06 PM

Sigurd Decroos

Has any1 experience with WPF in a Terminal Services environment or Citrix? More and more of our customers are going that route for costs and safety. What's the use of fancy windows and nice animations if the end-user can't even see them. The skins in WinForms of DevExpress are barely fast enough to be useable in those environments (not their fault). My bet stays on HTML to be cross-platform, cross-browser. There's a reason MS is investing so much energy in IE9 (which is working, but far from finished).

WPF = Fancy WinForms with some cool animations, nothing more than that IMHO. What pro software package is interested in that? Certainly not my customers, the simpler, the better.

October 30, 2010 2:23 PM

Michael Thuma

Does anyone here know if there is a Winforms that would run if there is no 32bit subsystem - or did I miss something?

As far as I have seen WPF is ok on .net 4. The limitation is the existing infrastructure the just normal PC only little more than 15% have .net 4. For me it looks that M$ is currently acting insane like always driven by urgencies. There is still one billion devices to make ... Micrsoft will move into any direction that helps to grab a share ... the competition has good cards too.

The only scenario in which SL and WPF would fail is - Asian business women do not go to the gym and build up muscles to carry around a Dell Laptops (for them this must be a Proliant 3000 at least) and people start going mobile and Pads turn out to be a subsitute to Laptops and Desktop PCs and this still hard to believe and the servers are out in the clouds. Hard to believe. The existing stuff is not the big issue but before 2014 .net 4 reliable everywhere - hard for ISVs.

I am still undecided to exchange Delphi with WPF ... the whole situation on the desktop is half baken in such situations devexpress can only support all. For sure C++/developers on windows still use MFC and it seems that it is possible to combine WPF controls with MFC (but there is so few information on the web about this).

Raoul: This is little the drawback of being a partner ... of any business that grows under a plattform protection. You have to pay the bill for the big name. In case of M$ it is the everlasting rewrite. I think devexpress still gets the optimum for us from this situation.

Neal:

>>Here Here Raoul!!  Less mouthpieces/evangelists, more developers/testers!  Absolutely!

This is sales ... man, and sometimes informative too - the webinars are intresting anyway. Do you want to have EMB videos instead ... You don't want to have, for sure. They don't sell, honestly. 90% of the worlds population are kind of visual, 7% phonetic and 3% grabbers. EMB videos are for the grabbers - assuming that all pascal percentages in TIOBE index are about 3% in summary we are there and some thumb ones. Ok the DXExperience vol 2010.2 video was little long with theming ... while at same time in half the period at the Coderage Boian Mitov built a video processing application rendering a XENA video - hard to compete anyway. Do you want attract new customers with videos about component properties:(. Wondering. It is still a lot devexpress does ... in order to get one up and running.

October 30, 2010 4:10 PM

Chris Lethert

This is an example of one thing that is great about DevExpress.  Would any other vendor of Silverlight tools have the guts to post this?  Kudos for open discussion on a topic that is obviously on the minds of many developers.

October 30, 2010 4:42 PM

Crono

I think it's a big mistake to think WPF/SL is just about fancy animations and interfaces.

As a developer, if all you ever designed were simple data input interfaces with grids or textboxes, then yes, VB6/Delphi/MFC/Winform did - and still does - the job right.

But at some point, in some projects, you always need to go just a bit outside the trail, with specific kinds of input, complex data representation or less common behavior. You then have to be VERY confortable with GDI painting and native API calls. It also requires much more time and money.

WPF/SL, on the other hand, are "21th-century aware". Going off the trail is much, much less painful, it's easy to reuse complex UI elements and behaviors, portability becomes easier too...

... and if you need to, you still can do Winform-like UIs! :)

So really, I can't think of a single good reason for MS to drop the ball on Xaml-based technologies. It just doesn't make any sense at all.

October 31, 2010 4:37 PM

Steve Sharkey

Don't you just love them? I think MS have a child in charge - they forumulate a plan, put loads of effort in then as it starts to gain momentum the change direction. I think they are working hard at their own destruction.

I agree with many comments including Crono that it would be a big mistake - but that wont stop them doing it they've seen grass they believe to be greener and are possibly executing a U-Turn. The problem is MS is a "modern" company that expects year-on-year increases in turnover the only way they get that is doing and selling something new - we are in recession and people have what they "need" already MS have to see how they fit into that.

For me I am just beginning to appreciate the nice things about WPF and can see where my WinForms apps would benefit from them - if nly the WPF/SL suite from DX was as complete as their WinForms suite. But now I think I'll stop spending time on WPF and concentrate where the money is for me - WinForms.

November 1, 2010 4:35 AM

Marc Greiner (DevExpress MVP)

Hi again Julian ;

I guess you can be proud of having written the blog post with the most comments / reactions in a while.

I hope that it was your only goal in writing it, and hope that you are not seriously believing what you wrote.

What I believe :

- We need Silverlight to build our LOBs : Silverlight = one single framework, from server to client.

This is the cheapest way, and the most elegant way of building a LOB architecture.

By cheap, I mean : economically cheap, short development time, small number of code lines, small learning curve, single technology, single IDE, etc.

With Silverlight, we get the best functionality there is : richest UI ever and incredibly vast API coverage via the NET framework (even if only a subset of it).

The Quality/Price ratio is simply unbeatable with Silverlight.

- Using html and other tricks like ajax, css, js, mvc, etc. to write LOBs is plain wrong : it is misusing a tool. Should I remind this : html was designed for text (Hypertext Markup Language).

I am not saying that these development tools should not be used.

What I am saying is :

In the industrial quest to reach the perfect development environment, we should not scafold on redundancy and waste.

Browser js, css, html, etc. has got nothing to do with LOBs.

The most obvious reason is the ubiquitous redundancy of the business rules that you get server side in C# and client side in js, html, etc., this is plain wrong.

- It is true that Google tries to push the web and web tools forward to developers.

Yes, Google offers very impressive web apps.

But they don't do that because it is the right way of doing it, neither because it is the easiest way of doing it.

They simply do it for business and strategic reasons.

But they do not care about us, the developers.

We, the developers, do not want to program like Google wants us to.

We do not have the billions that they have, to massively invest into the web.

We do not want to use horrible tricks to have no lags in pages, no page refresh, rich UI, etc., how clever these tricks can be.

We do not want yet another standard like html5 to build our web LOBS, or yet another js framework.

Sure, we want to go web, but not at this price.

That is why we need Silverlight.

PS. I am sorry if some web developers feel offended by what i wrote.

Please don't be offended and forgive me.

In fact, I have great respect for you, web developers :

You master technology that is really hard to master.

You build wonderful web sites.

You struggle day after day with crippled code imposed by html and js development history, as well as incompatibilities due to browser war.

You spend a lot of time trying to debug js code or whatever, sometimes waiting minutes until the browser loads the break point into the debugger.

I know that your life is hard (I have done some web development too and may still have to do some).

November 1, 2010 6:44 AM

Edward Marbry

Here's what microsoft has to say about silverlight and html 5.

johnpapa.net/.../silverlight-tv-50-scott-guthrie-discusses-the-state-of-silverlight

November 1, 2010 10:23 AM

Edward Marbry

November 1, 2010 2:38 PM

Neal

Here's the reality of the matter:

1) You can't run Flash everywhere, i.e. Mac

2) You can't run Silverlight everywhere, i.e. Mac

Therefore,  because we as devs can't assure our SL apps can work everywhere needed we tend to not use the techology.  Think of using SL on your web site, or Flash for that matter.  The reason we don't is because MANY viewers cannot see it.  iPad's are growing in numbers and guess what, they can't see your web site content if you use either of these technologies.  Not the case with HTML5 I suppose.

They dog food'd VS 2010 with WPF, and now WP7 with SL.  Have they discovered that this technology is not working for them either?

Interesting situation we are all in.

November 1, 2010 2:54 PM

Michael Thuma

The game of the 90s was - nothing works but there is no alternaitve to MS. The mobile phoes and the Iphone brought back the Tricotronic ... hard to compete:). In the end there is competition ...

>>Don't you just love them? I think MS have a child in charge - they forumulate a plan, put loads of effort in then as it starts to gain momentum the change direction.

--> This just means for WPF that it is not of marekting interest ... here I agree. This has imho few to do with with writing apps WPF or not ... if someone wants to have it why not ... the LOBs - here a) MS is missing the intgeration plattform and b) a strategy - there is nothing - Sharepoint is just web it's still a DMS, CMS and nothing else ... BI moves back to Excel - or just web or other have already built the dashboard software ... .net helps the vendor less the inhouse IT - the consensus is still by standard software ...

MS has to move their apps to hosted spaces ... for many reasons ... and combine them with the Phone ... this is what people want ... No server on premise is a lot better for millions of businesses.

The plain web has the big advantage that you are not running at a risk to be a victiim of Microsofts fire and motion tactics  ... this happend with Java and Web ...

November 1, 2010 4:43 PM

Sigurd Decroos

My biggest problem with HTML apps is the connection with Office, Printers and other extra hardware attached to the computer. With WinForms (or WPF) you can address those quite direct. With HTML you don't have this flexibility.

We live in interesting times, but also difficult because of the many technologies out there and all have their drawbacks.

November 1, 2010 4:59 PM

Chris Walsh [DX-Squad]

Jeebus,

This is getting out of hand.  Sure, Scott Barnes said that "WPF is dead".  But dead from a Marketing standpoint.  Not dead from a technology and platform standpoint.

Sure, the Silverlight strategy might have shifted, and by shifted being the dev platform for Windows Phone.

When HTML5 is actually ratified and finished, it will STILL take 5+ years to replace the 60% of users out there now still using IE6 and above.  Meanwhile 70% of ALL PC's out there have Silverlight installed.  

MS would be doing themselves a major disservice in "terminating" Silverlight now and in the future.  

IMHO Silverlight & WPF aren't dead.  Just wait till MIX2011.

November 1, 2010 6:03 PM

Neal

Folks, want to discuss near real-time, I started a forum thread:

community.devexpress.com/.../94799.aspx

Would be nice if these blogs had the same thing like support center cases where you can "discuss" it via the forum and not have to wait for a moderator who is probably setting up a booth somewhere! :)

November 1, 2010 6:07 PM

Martin Pelletier

10rem.net/.../the-present-and-future-of-wpf

Maybe it will help clear some things.

November 1, 2010 11:27 PM

Sher Hurlburt

So, Julian, after reading the link in the last post, don't you feel better?

November 2, 2010 8:03 PM

Matthew K

There's a lot I would like say, but this thread is getting long. Instead, let me point out Scott Gu's remarks here: weblogs.asp.net/.../silverlight-questions.aspx

November 6, 2010 1:55 AM

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