It’s been a while since I last blogged about Silverlight, Microsoft’s newest (?) “me, too” application. So long, I had to search for the post in my blog dashboard (it’s no longer on the first page of results for the tag “Microsoft”). But the news media is covering it again, this time as part of New Year’s stuff (predictions for 2008, duh).
PC World’s article from a couple hours ago suggests, using mostly quotes and its tagline, that the battle between Adobe and Microsoft will get hotter next year, as Silverlight battles Flash, Flex, and AIR for supremacy in the rich Internet application (RIA) arena.
Microsoft’s biggest challenge so far has been to just get people to download the plugin. As the article’s author, Chris Kanaracus, wrote, “Every good general knows that even the biggest army is useless if you can’t get it on the battlefield.” Silverlight won’t do Microsoft any good if it stays on the download servers and doesn’t get installed on client PCs.
My take is, I really don’t want Microsoft to succeed. Adding another application to the mix just means we consumers have to install yet another program to be able to use the Web without any missing content. Needing Flash, QuickTime, Java, and Shockwave is bad enough; add AIR, Flex, and Silverlight, and we’ll start to spend all of our time on the Internet installing plugins. Even just one is pushing it, in my opinion.
The best way to go, I think, would be to simply expand existing offerings, perhaps adding one more plugin to do offline (read: out-of-browser) stuff. Silverlight isn’t that one plugin; it still focuses on Web- and browser-based content. AIR is OK; I’ll probably end up getting it eventually as more application developers start to use it. (So far, all I’ve seen using AIR is a Twitter client, which I don’t need thanks to IM and Firefox integrations.)
Actually, we already have out-of-browser applications, based on Java. We don’t need AIR, even. Why can’t we just build on existing frameworks, instead of introducing additional platforms? Sometimes, I think the software world has gone mad… I guess I should just be thankful that Silverlight is available for Internet Explorer (Windows), Firefox (Windows/Macintosh), and Safari (Mac). But what about Linux? Honestly, nobody seems to care about releasing plugins for browsers on the operating system that basically runs the Internet (a majority of servers run some variety of Linux). Harrumph. And I want to switch at some point, too.
Update (12/31): Given i80and’s comment below, I should clarify something. I say that nobody really supports Linux because the existing solutions either are horrible and pathetic (Linux Flash) or rely on external libraries/applications (Mono, WINE, etc.). It’s not that things aren’t available for Linux; it’s just that there’s very little native support, that I can see.