Microsoft stressed this week that its Silverlight rich Internet technology extends the Web beyond what HTML5 allows.
Brad Becker, Director of Product Management, Developer Platforms at Microsoft, has shared his thoughts on how Silverlight fits into a future world where the video tag is available to developers.
Standards-based multimedia features offered by HTML5 have taken the spotlight lately from proprietary technologies, such as Silverlight and Adobe's Flash. Microsoft has been involved with HTML for years, and remains committed to it and to web standards in general.
"On the web, the purpose of Silverlight has never been to replace HTML; it's to do the things that HTML (and other technologies) couldn't in a way that was easy for developers to tap into. Microsoft remains committed to using Silverlight to extend the web by enabling scenarios that HTML doesn't cover. From simple "islands of richness" in HTML pages to full desktop-like applications in the browser and beyond, Silverlight enables applications that deliver the kinds of rich experiences users want. We group these into three broad categories: premium media experiences, consumer apps and games, and business/enterprise apps," Becker wrote on Microsoft's Silverlight blog.
Premium media experiences include teleconferencing with webcam/microphone, Video on demand applications with full DVR functionality and content protection like Netflix, online media events like the Olympics as covered by NBC, CTV, NRK, and
stream Silverlight video to desktops, browsers, and iPhone/iPad with IIS Smooth Streaming, according to Becker.
"The media features of Silverlight are far beyond what HTML 5 will provide and work consistently in users' current and future browsers," Becker said.
"Key differentiators in these scenarios include High Definition (HD) H.264 and VC-1 video, content protection including DRM, stereoscopic 3D video, multicast, live broadcast support and
information overlays / Picture-in-picture," Becker added.
Silverlight also makes possible for designers and developers to give the people what they want with fully-customizable controls with styles and skins, great designer ? developer workflow through Microsoft' s tools and shared projects, fluid motion via bitmap caching and effects and perspective 3D, becker said.
Silverlight also includes the following features to help make rich applications affordable:
* Full set of 60+ pre-built controls, fully stylable
* Productive app design and development tools
* Powerful performance with .NET and C#
* Powerful, interactive data visualizations through charting controls and Silverlight PivotViewer
* Flexible data support: Databinding, binary XML, LINQ, and Local Storage
* Virtualized printing
* COM automation (including Microsoft Office connectivity), group policy management
"For simpler scenarios that don't require some of the advanced capabilities mentioned above, Silverlight and HTML both meet the requirements," Becker. "However, when looking at both the present and future state of platform technologies, there are some other factors to take into consideration, such as performance, consistency and timing."
As far as performance is concerned, Silverlight has specific features - from the performance of the CLR, to hardware acceleration of video playback, to user-responsiveness through multithreading.
Microsoft is also working on donating test suites to help improve consistency between implementations of HTML 5 and CSS3 but these technologies have traditionally had a lot of issues with variation between browsers.
"HTML 5 and CSS 3 are going to make this worse for a while as the specs are new and increase the surface area of features that may be implemented differently. In contrast, since we develop all implementations of Silverlight, we can ensure that it renders the same everywhere," Becker said.
In about half the time HTML 5 has been under design, Microsoft has created Silverlight and shipped four major versions of it. And it's still unclear exactly when HTML 5 and its related specs will be complete with full test suites. For HTML 5 to be really targetable, the spec has to stabilize, browsers have to all implement the specs in the same way, and over a billion people have to install a new browser or buy a new device or machine.
"That's going to take a while. And by the time HTML 5 is broadly targetable, Silverlight will have evolved significantly. Meanwhile, Silverlight is here now and works in all popular browsers and OS's" Becker added.
Becker also stressed to explain that Silverlight is much more than a browser technology. There are three areas of investment for Silverlight outside the browser: the desktop, the mobile device, and the living room. Powerful desktop applications can be created with Silverlight today. These applications don't require a separate download?any desktop user with Silverlight installed has these capabilities. These apps can be discovered and downloaded in the browser but are standalone applications that are painless to install and delete. Silverlight now also runs on mobile devices and is the main development platform for the new Windows Phone 7 devices. Lastly, at NAB and the Silverlight 4 launch this year Microsoft showed how Silverlight can be used as a powerful, rich platform for living room devices as well.