Silverlight’s future at DevExpress

22 December 2014

Over the past year, it has become increasingly apparent to the Microsoft development market that Silverlight has become sidelined. Silverlight 5, the current major version, was released December 9, 2011, three years ago. Apart from a series of minor updates occurring at roughly 6 month intervals, the only code changes have been security updates propagated through Windows Update. Compare that with the rapid-fire releases of Silverlight 1 through 4 (Sep-07, Oct-08, Jul-09, Apr-10) and you soon begin to wonder what Silverlight’s future portends.

Driving on road towards the setting sun © rasica - Fotolia.comNow, first things first: Microsoft have provided a standard Product Lifecycle for Silverlight that states, in summary, Mainstream Support for Silverlight 5 will end on December 10, 2021. (Support for Silverlight 1 – 4 has already ended.) That’s the official news.

Apart from that, there is no real explicit news about Silverlight’s future. Last month, when Microsoft were open-sourcing .NET Core 2015, talking about Visual Studio 2015 and ASP.NET vNext, and providing early bits for testing, there was a blog post detailing a roadmap for WPF, but, tellingly, there was nothing about Silverlight. For all intents and purposes then, we are left with the impression that Silverlight is in maintenance mode.

From my viewpoint, I’d say this: the overall strategy of the web application market is moving away from the requirement for browser add-ons. It’s HTML5 and JavaScript and client-side controls and web services and simple deployment and the cloud. Not that Silverlight can’t do any of the latter things, but it’s no longer what the market is steering towards. Application frameworks like Silverlight and Adobe Flash have had their day: HTML5 and JavaScript are rapidly becoming the de-facto web application framework. This is especially so when you consider the burgeoning market for responsive/adaptive web apps that target tablets and phones: there’s no Silverlight there. We are clearly seeing this trend in our own sales statistics too: throughout 2014 it’s been obvious to us that customers want to write web apps but don’t want to write Silverlight ones.

The one thing about Silverlight that is still valid today and into the future is XAML. From its early beginnings in WPF and Silverlight, XAML has grown into a cross-platform user interface definition language. We now use it for WPF, WinRT, Windows Phone, and soon-if-not-now Universal Apps. The legacy of Silverlight the framework is essentially Windows Phone, but that of XAML is across all platforms.

Based on this analysis, we made the decision to put our Silverlight controls into maintenance mode as well – in fact, we have already forked the code. We will not be providing any new functionality for our Silverlight controls but will provide maintenance updates to fix any issues as and when necessary. We have already stopped selling DevExpress Silverlight as a separate product (either as a new subscription or as a maintenance subscription) and it is now only available as part of DXperience or Universal.

We regret having to make this decision, but we feel our XAML development expertise and resources are going to be better spent in the future being targeted at WPF, WinRT, and Universal Apps. As always we welcome your feedback about our future strategy, so please feel free to email or comment below.

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