Microsoft Surrenders Silverlight to HTML5 on Cross-Platform Front

Microsoft had plenty to say about HTML5 at PDC (Professional Developers Conference) yesterday, yet there was very little mention of Silverlight. The phenomenon is cause to reflect on which of the two languages will reign supreme for cross-platform Web development in the Microsoft universe.

For time being, Redmond is giving the nod to HTML5, which has enjoyed far broader adoption that Silverlight. But don't count out the latter language entirely: Microsoft envisions Silverlight as go-to development language for Windows Phone. Further, Silverlight should continue to have a home in Windows shops, where developers can take advantage of its bells, whistles, and tight controls to crank out rich Web apps that don't need to run on multiple operating systems.

The revelation that Silverlight is no longer Microsoft's golden child for rich Web development shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, observes InfoWorld blogger Martin Heller. He noted that supporters of HTML5, IE, and CSS3 at Microsoft have evidently won the turf war against those backing .Net/Silverlight guys. Some of the latter, in fact, have jumped ship, it appears; Brad Abrams, who worked on Silverlight and .Net, is now at Google.

Further, the latest version of Internet Explorer 9 has been all about HTML5, despite Microsoft's insisting as recently as last month that Silverlight has superior capabilities.

Cross-platform Web apps for the masses are but one battleground between HTML5 and Silverlight. Microsoft intends to put its development platform's superior capabilities to good use for other apps, such as Windows Phone software. Microsoft's Bob Muglia, who is in charge of the company's server and tools business, told ZDNet quite clearly that "Silverlight is our development platform for Windows Phone."

Indeed, Microsoft has demonstrated the combined power of Silverlight and Windows Phone, for graphically rich entertainment and business apps, in an effort to woo developers to the mobile platform. Further, Silverlight trumps HTML5 in situations where cross-platform portability isn't a concern.

HTML5 is still a relatively young language, and it will gradually encroach on the capabilities of Silverlight, as well as Flash. But for the foreseeable future, Silverlight will no doubt give some developers options they don't get with HTML5.

This article, "Microsoft surrenders Silverlight to HTML5 on cross-platform front," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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