Users take sides in Flash-Silverlight clash

Users take sides in Flash-Silverlight clash

Microsoft's rival to Adobe's Flash browser plug-in software yield MIXed user reactions

Microsoft's Silverlight technology could give Adobe's rival Flash browser plug-in software a run for its money based on attendee feedback at the Microsoft Mix07 conference in Las Vegas on Monday.

Microsoft made a host of unveilings pertaining to Silverlight, its new technology supporting multimedia in a browser. Among the revelations were a linkage between .Net to Silverlight and a beta release offering of Silverlight. Also, as part of its Silverlight 1.1 alpha rollout, Microsoft unveiled a dynamic language runtime supporting the IronPython programming language and managed JavaScript that can be run on .Net. Plans call for adding support for the IronRuby language and Dynamic VB as well. .

With Microsoft's linkage between .Net, Microsoft fills a gap for developers, according to two attendees who work as software engineers at TransCore.

"One of the biggest knocks on Silverlight, at least early, was that it didn't have the embedded [.Net] CLR (common language runtime) in it. That was a big announcement for them to make," said Matt Darnall, of TransCore. A version of the .Net CLR is featured as part of Silverlight 1.1

"It kind of opens the door for a lot more sophisticated development," he said. Developers who know .Net and C# can make applications in the language they are familiar with instead of having to learn a new language for Adobe's Flex rich Internet application platform, Darnall said.

However, he added, it was a bit early to draw a conclusion about Silverlight.

Darnall's colleague, Joe Tillotson, said he saw Flash as more of a vehicle for building sophisticated interactive applications, while Silverlight goes beyond that. "You could span a much broader class of applications than Adobe Flash targets," he said.

A developer who said he had limited experience with Flash also sided with Silverlight. "I just think the integration with .Net is going to be big. I'm a .Net developer. It allows me to jump in [to] Silverlight a lot easier," said Rick Arthur, CTO of Arthur Computing Solutions.

"[With] Flash, I was stumbling around, and it was very difficult," Arthur said.

Another attendee found advantages to both. "[Microsoft is] giving me the tools that I want to [use] to deliver my content on the Web," said Kim Tapia St. Amant, creative director at Personify Design.

But she expressed a familiarity with Flash and its use of an ActionScript window for coding. The ActionScript panel "is always there," and there is no need to toggle back and forth between applications, she said. Microsoft's Expression Blend Web design tool does not have that ActionScript window, she said.

Another attendee also gave a thumbs-up to Silverlight.

"Silverlight is technically superior," to Flash, said Dominic Williams, managing director of System 7, which produces digital publications.

Silverlight integrates well with the whole Microsoft development ecosystem, said Williams.

Adobe acknowledged Silverlight as a competitor.

"Microsoft has obviously designed Silverlight to compete with parts of Adobe Flash and Flex. We are glad that they have acknowledged the value of a cross-platform runtime that combines a high-performance virtual machine with integrated graphics, video, and animation," the company said in a prepared statement on Monday. Flash Player 9 is already on more than 80 percent of users' desktops, the company said.

At the conference, Microsoft brought presenters from Major League Baseball, NetFlix, and CBS News to show their multimedia application plans for Silverlight. CBS, for its part, leverages it to allow viewers to send in video content that could be used on its news program.

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