Quality Reads

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Quick Look At Silverlight

If you haven't heard yet, Microsoft is jumping into the RIA scene with Silverlight (previously known as Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere). Silverlight uses XAML, an XML markup language similar to MXML, and a subset of WPF codebase to provide rich interactive user interfaces. This puts Microsoft in direct competition with Adobe's Flex. So the question for anyone just jumping into the RIA revolution is which should I choose, Flex or Silverlight? Here's my quick analysis:

  • Flex runs on Flash 9.0 available in about ~50% of browsers currently.
  • Adobe makes a concerted effort to release their latest Flash player for those other operating systems, Mac and Linux.
  • Flex 3 is in beta. The third iteration of a game changing development platform.
  • Flex is a compiled language making dynamic application generation difficult. Although there are ways to get around that.
  • If you are a ColdFusion/Java developer, server-side integration is a nominal task.
  • Easily convert your Flex applications into desktop apps with Apollo.


  • Tight .NET integration. Utilize the same tools to develop a desktop app, web app, or Silverlight app.
  • Silverlight is an interpreted language. You can easily generate dynamic applications on the server-side since XAML is just a text file.
  • Comparable RIA platform to Flex.
  • All Vista users have Silverlight pre-installed. Requires the .NET framework version 3 so XP users have a number of extra steps to get things running.
  • Applications are a smaller download size, approximately 50-60% smaller.
  • The Silverlight plugin is only a 1.9MB download compared to 2.2MB...Ok, when I started writing this line I thought difference would be more significant.

In the end, the deciding factor for most developers will be the server-side language of their choice. But one things for sure, there will be an interesting battle ahead.

No comments: