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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HTML5

Silveright is alive and well, thank you very much--alongside HTML5

When I wrote my column last month on the confusion of HTML5 and Silverlight, I thought that was it. I thought I could move on from all the hysteria, but sure enough in late October the monster came back…. How naïve of me. It came back because of some "interesting" statements made in a keynote and to the press by Microsoft's Bob Muglia, President, Server and Tools Division, at the PDC conference on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, which frankly were initially a bit depressing for a Silverlight fan like me:

"Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone. Silverlight also has some "sweet spots" in media and line-of-business applications." Muglia said. But he also made some vague statements in the context of Silverlight like, "Our strategy has shifted." Those statements, coupled with the lack of any Silverlight-next discussion or sessions at the PDC, caused a firestorm of Internet fodder, speculation, and discussion on internal and external Microsoft aliases about the death of Silverlight…. Ultimately all false.

In reading an internal email thread on his reaction to the messaging at this year's PDC keynotes, I couldn't help but be riveted by the statements made by Bob Kreha, founder of Fifth Discipline, on the HTML5/Silverlight confusion. In fact, this article is titled "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HTML5" because that is what Bob Kreha titled his email. Bob went with a sobering statement: "I am concerned, however, that Microsoft vacillates on whether Silverlight really is a prime time competitor to HTML5 or not. It leaves us all in a strategic lurch."

A few days later, on November 1, Bob Muglia made a blog post to the Silverlight Team Blog clarifying his statements at the PDC:

"I understand that what I said surprised people and caused controversy and confusion. As this certainly wasn't my intent, I want to apologize for that. I'd like to use this post to expand on what I said, and talk about the very important role Silverlight has going forward."
He went on: "In the interview, I said several things that I want to emphasize:
1. Silverlight is very important and strategic to Microsoft.
2. We're working hard on the next release of Silverlight, and it will continue to be cross-browser and cross-platform, and run on Windows and Mac.
3. Silverlight is a core application development platform for Windows, and it's the development platform for Windows Phone."

It is amazing how a few somewhat innocent comments turn into snowball of speculation in the form of an article in the press, then a number of blog posts, and a ton of traffic in the email aliases. And consequently, an ecosystem of Silverlight developers become immediately depressed and/or threatened. In the comments to Bob Muglia's retraction blog post I found it amazing how many Silverlight developers thanked him for the clarification, as if they had bought into the notion that Silverlight had died and were relieved it was not true.

That was yesterday. Well, as I write this, I am sitting here listening to Scott Guthrie's keynote at the DevConnections conference in Las Vegas. Scott started his keynote with a slide showing the Silverlight logo and the statement, "The Reports of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated." Scott went on to explain that Silverlight is still crucial to Microsoft's strategy and emphasized that not only is it not dead, but he has more people on the Silverlight Product team working on Silverlight-Next than at any other time in Silverlight history and that Silverlight adoption is soaring with the runtime installed on over two-thirds of the computers on the Internet.

But Scott Guthrie made one statement that rang more true; more poignantly than anything else in his keynote: "Do not believe everything you read on the Internet." Boy is that true—now more than ever.

Tim Huckaby ([email protected]) is Founder and Chairman of InterKnowlogy, experts in Microsoft .NET and Microsoft platforms. Tim has worked on and with product teams at Microsoft for 25-plus years, has authored books and several publications, and is a frequent conference speaker.

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