Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Muglia back-pedals on Silverlight. Too late?

There are sometimes when I loathe ZDNet's approach as they seem to be very anti Microsoft but there are others when I think that they are the only people who can really find out what's going on.

In an inteview with Mary Jo Foley, Bob Muglia reduced Silverlight to the development system for Windows Phone 7, angering developers, myself amongst them, who have listened to the hype over the Silverlight, browser, desktop, cross-platform for several years now and have comitted to following the line laid out by Microsoft by investing in that technology.

Many years ago, after speaking to top level program managers within Microsoft, I believed that the only reason virtual machine technologies existed, particularly those that enabled delivery of Windows CE applications to hand-held machines that ran a variety of processors, was specifically for enabling standardised Windows programming across all devices. I waited in vain for this to come to fruition because I truly believe that to have a virtual machine system capable of running the same p-code on all devices would be a fantastic solidifier for an industry that has too many diverse standards.

Recently, with Silverlight I had begun to believe again in the possibility of a unified developer platform that could adapt seamlessley to many, or any, form factors and devices. Now, with this latest development I can see another period of wandering in the wilderness looking for some sign of sanity from what seems to be an insane guide.

Microsoft pulled a similar stunt on the Windows CE developer community back then, virtually dropping Windows CE, reducing it to a minor player and now they're back to the same old tricks.

People at high level, Like Muglia and Ballmer don't say this stuff off the tops of their heads and retract it because it was an unfortunate mistake. You can bet that this has been on the table for a long time inside Redmond and that talking about it in this way has become so second nature that Bob Muglia never even thought it would be a problem when he spoke about it.

I know of front line silverlight applications that companies have, and still are investing millions of Euros in which will be in some doubt after this statement. It's one thing for a company to change strategy on an immature product and, despite Silverlight's relative youth in the marketplace, it is after all a version 4 product with a large amount of promises and "trust us, this is the future, believe in it" messages having come from Microsoft.

This is a problem that destroys trust and causes immense turmoil that Microsoft doesn't seem to care about. As an architect I feel a responsibility to guide my clients down a road that is beneficial to them. I need to be able to trust Microsoft to deliver on promises. In the case of Silverlight I had been reticent to push clients towards it until version 3. Recently however I have been looking at the possibilities of using it for some seriously important applications but now, I predict another struggle trying to persuade conservative IT departments in two or three companies to even allow a sniff of Silverlight code into their applications.

Way to go Bob!

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