Silverlight has been under threat for the past twelve months from at best FUD and at worst an attempt on its life. Version 5 is due to be released to manufacturing this month amid speculation that it could be the last ever major release. So is this goodbye Silverlight?
The rumour that Silverlight 5 could be the final release of this product originates in a post on her ZDNet blog by Mary Jo Foley who is usually a pretty reliable source when it comes to Microsoft machinations because of her many reliable insider contacts.
In a post Will there be a Silverlight 6 she writes:
Several of my customer and partner contacts have told me they have heard from their own Microsoft sources over the past couple of weeks that Silverlight 5 is the last version of Silverlight that Microsoft will release. They said they are unsure whether there will be any service packs for it, and they are also not clear on how long Silverlight 5 will be supported by Microsoft.
So this is hearsay at the moment but it fits in well with the other developments and the emphasis that Microsoft is placing on Windows 8 and WinRT - the alternative to managed code and Siverlight in particular.
Another unverified piece of information in the same post is that:
Silverlight 5 may only work with Internet Explorer on Windows and won’t work on Mac OS platforms or with other browsers at all.
However, it could very well all be true as Microsoft seems to be willing to discard the old in its headlong rush to embrace HTML5. Why keep a cross browser plugin when plugins are so hated and HTML5 so loved? Even Adobe has stated that Flash is to be withdrawn from mobile devices. The day of the plugin seems to be well and truely over.
Mary Jo Foley's post also asks whether the demise of Silverlight will really matter.
The answer to that has to be a resounding "yes" from any .NET programmer.
Silverlight, for all its early shortcomings, has matured into a capable technology and is used in both enterprise and cloud applications. It also currently underpins Windows Phone 7 development, a role in which it ought to be able to look forward to a future that extends beyond the horizon. But, of course, in any sane world Windows Phone 8 would be based on WinRT, just like Windows 8. So there is no niche future for Silverlight.
Anybody who has been following I Programmer's news and articles will be aware of our position that Microsoft's current policy amounts to unwarranted, and possibly unnoticed, fragmentation. Although it is more likely that Microsoft has noticed the problem and hopes that no one else has.
Put simply, if WP8 is WinRT based, WP7 and all its apps will be dead in the water - they will all have to be recoded and WP8 will mark a complete restart.
The death of Silverlight is also the death of WP7 and its apps, which will have to be reborn as WP8 apps.
You can see why Microsoft hopes no one has noticed.
Moving to WinRT could be the biggest mistake Microsoft has ever made as, when the news sinks in, it will kill WP7 just as it is relaunched.
Last year's set of rumours about Silverlight (see Silverlight is dead, long live Silverlight?) led to an outbreak of support for the technology on the part of Microsoft (see Silverlight is alive and well). Let us hope that there's another reprieve waiting in the wings but the changes seem to be so large and effect the entire Microsoft platform that a reprieve seems unlikley.
Dumping .NET - Microsoft's Madness
Was .NET all a mistake?
Silverlight 5 arrives for developers
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