Microsoft Silverlight is Dead! Long Live Microsoft Silverlight?

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by Andy Patrizio

In this case, the old adage that death is merely change applies.

It has been a concern of developers for some time now: will Silverlight 5, the latest release of Microsoft’s answer to Adobe Flash, be the final version? Microsoft appears to be saying yes without saying yes, but developers shouldn’t worry because the technology lives on in another form.

Some development techniques never truly die. COBOL is still going strong after 40 years despite more attempts on its life than James Bond. Others go obsolete. When was the last time you saw an ad that read, “Help wanted: DESQView developer?”

In the case of Silverlight, though, Microsoft is making sure that the skills to develop for it continue even if the product does not. It has not said Silverlight is dead, explicitly, but reading between the lines, it’s clear there won’t be a Silverlight 6.

Microsoft Silverlight

The clearest hint came earlier this month in a comment from Larry Lieberman, a senior product manager at Microsoft on the Windows Phone blog.

“We’ve also heard some developers express concern about the long term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone. Please don’t panic; XAML and C#/VB.NET development in Windows 8 can be viewed as a direct evolution from today’s Silverlight. All of your managed programming skills are transferrable to building applications for Windows 8, and in many cases, much of your code will be transferrable as well,” he wrote.

It’s not hard to read between the lines of that statement. A Microsoft spokesperson only added to the non-answer with this statement to Desktop Review: “Silverlight is part of a rich offering of technologies from Microsoft that help developers deliver applications for the Web, desktop and mobile devices. We made Silverlight 5 available December 9, 2011, providing customers with new features and benefits, and we will continue to support our customers who use Silverlight.”

But don’t worry or be surprised, argues Ray Valdes, vice president of research for Internet platforms at Gartner. This happens all the time, and Microsoft is making the migration as painless as possible.

“Silverlight is based on XAML and C#, so it should be a relatively straightforward conversion. You go into the world of WinRT and C# and don’t go back. By that I mean at least 90% and maybe as much as 95% of your code is transferable. So that’s not bad. But there is a step, there is a required effort. It’s a little bit of a disruption and discontinuity there. So it’s not ideal but it could be worse,” he said.
He isn’t surprised Microsoft won’t just come out and say Silverlight is going by way of Internet Explorer 6 and Windows XP. “It’s not that unusual. Often there is compatibility that remains for a long time. There’s probably VB6 apps still functioning out there in companies,” he said.

It’s also not politically correct to say a product is dead, especially when it lives on in another form and will be supported. “It’s not dead in that they have said they will support it until the year 2021. So they can’t say it’s dead because that’s not quite correct. From their point of view, they are focusing on maintaining skills on XAML and C# and those will be around a long time,” he said.

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