Planning for the Silverlight decline
The launch of Windows 8 is a clear indication of how Microsoft is changing their attitude towards browser plugins such as Silverlight. This is a completely new user interface which has been created to allow fast access to apps and the web, being mainly targeted at mobile devices but including an alternative mode for desktop PCs and laptops. If you have a Silverlight app, then this signifies a substantial shift that could have huge consequences.
The history of Silverlight
Microsoft Silverlight was launched in 2007 as an app framework for writing and running rich internet apps. Since this time it has undergone various version upgrades in order to expand upon its level of functionality. Version 5 was released in May 2012 and the tool was the core platform for Windows Phone 7.
However, the complication of Windows 8 for Silverlight is that the lightweight version of IE10 for tablets and other mobile devices which use this operating system will not support plugins. It is still possible to create and deploy Silverlight apps in desktop mode, but it will not be supported in the "Metro-styled" mode, in which apps run on top of the new Windows Realtime (WinRT).
The view in the industry is that Windows Phones will soon end their support of Silverlight, thus encouraging developers to move to WinRT.
The Silverlight decline
It is important that developers plan for the expected decline of the Silverlight browser plugin and establish what can be done before this shift occurs, even if the WinRT takeover is only going to affect mobile apps. There are options available, and they each include pros and cons that you need to consider, as we show here:
– ASP.net: this is suitable for any uses and has a great deal of flexibility; new features can be added by updating current code and it does not require re-writing of entire applications. Apps are compatible with tablet, desktop and mobile devices, while the choice of developers is vast.
– HTML5: once again, this is suitable for any uses. It includes a great deal of interactivity, and it is compatible with mobile and tablet devices. Microsoft is planning to improve the incorporation of HTML5 in upcoming versions of Internet Explorer, and it has the flexibility to run on any browser. Cons are that not all of the functionality is supported in all browsers yet, and HTML5 development tools are not as productive as those for other environments.
– Windows 8 Apps: this is suitable for phones which run Windows Phone 8 and applicable tablets, laptops and PC’s, while the costsare relatively low due to less work required for the changeover. In terms of cons, few devices currently support Windows 8 Apps, flexibility could be seen as minimal and Microsoft is by no means the market leader in mobile software.
– Android Apps: this is suitable on Apps for future devices with AMD chips and phones and tablets which include Android OS. In terms of pros, development is fast as this is one of the most popular platforms, many skilled developers work within this arena and it is compatible with many high performance devices. However, existing Macs and iPhones do not have the latest AMD chips and this will cause limitations.
The next step
The end of Silverlight is not definite, but Microsoft’s current stance indicates that it may not be far off. The option you choose to implement will be based on individual needs and should be seen as an opportunity, rather than a stalling point, as it gives you the chance to step back and review the bigger picture of your business’ requirements.