Since its release last year, Microsoft's Silverlight has been championed as a serious contender to Adobe's Flash and associated Flex development tools. And with the beta version of Silverlight 2, which was released in March this year, Microsoft appears to have fixed the flaws from the first version.

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However developers and end users have been slow to adopt the software. According to many observers it's going to take more than the ability to overcome or match the technology of Flash. We spoke to a number of industry analysts and professional web developers to get their views on what elements are affecting Silverlight's chances in the rich internet applications (RIA) development market.

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Microsoft's technology on the web

First and foremost, Silverlight was devised to bring the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) programming model to web applications, and with that, the large .Net developer community. Between the Adobe Flash and Microsoft offerings, "it is not a feature war; each platform can tout some advantages. [Silverlight] is mostly about bringing Microsoft's developer ecosystem to the web", says Al Hilwa, an analyst at market research firm IDC.

"It enables Microsoft's technology stack to have a rich media story for the web. They didn't before; they do now," says Atlanta-based Jesse Warden, who has been developing professionally in Flash since 1998. "This means they can utilise and interface with a lot of their existing technology," says Warden, who has also started working in Silverlight.

Greg DeMichillie, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, describes Silverlight 1.0 as "a placeholder narrowly focused on video, and not a full platform. The real action begins with the second version".

Currently in beta and set for release sometime later this year, Silverlight 2 is expected to tout more of the kind of "hard-core" graphical user interface programming that Adobe's Flex platform features. It will leverage Microsoft's strongest developer technologies: Visual Studio, C#, and the .Net Framework.

"Visual Studio is great,'" says Warden. "I wonder why Flex Builder's Eclipse plug-in doesn't have some awesome Visual Studio feature."

"Silverlight 2 feels like it's going to be a full-on contender with Flash and Flex in a short time. Then the battle will be over ubiquity, developer hearts and minds, and control of the web," says Michael Cote, an analyst at RedMonk.

NEXT PAGE: The potential for cross-platform support

  1. Industry views on whether Microsoft Silverlight will overtake Flash
  2. The potential for cross-platform support
  3. How the future will pan out for Microsoft Silverlight

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