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Silverlight 3.0 - The First Real Threat to Flex


I just finished reviewing the API docs for Silverlight 3. I'm really impressed with the 3.0 framework. Silverlight has always had good underpinnings including an elegant and clean API, a declarative UI, a solid VM and an excellent programming language (C#). The problem has been a lack of polish in the UI, missing high level components and missing key features already found in Flash/Flex. SL 3.0 solves all these problems. Looking through the API docs, which are starting to look more like J2ME than a toy browser plugin API, I see advanced bitmap and vector APIs including filters and effects, support for skins, inter-application communication, 3D capabilities and media APIs with low level access to streams and stream sources. Silverlight 3.0 also enjoys excellent tool support in VisualStudio and Expression Blend. There is currently no design tool for Flex that provides the kind of designer friendly tools available in Blend. Flex Builder, which is built on top of the excellent Eclipse framework, is a developer oriented tool. Silverlight's tools support both developers (VisualStudio) and designers (Expression Blend.)

Possibly the most important new Silverlight feature is the ability to run as a desktop application, much like Adobe Air. This means, for the first time, developers can create rich cross platform .NET desktop applications. This is technically possible with Mono as well, but it is very painful and the results are usually less than elegant in appearance and functionality. I mean no disrespect to the talented Mono team. The .NET framework design makes it hard to handle the WinForms namespaces outside of a Windows environment.

I think this is a great direction for Microsoft. Who knows? Perhaps someday we will see a Silverlight MS Office :-) The SL 3.0 Beta is available now. Another major release is due next month and the final release is expected before EOY.

Note: For those of you interested in a Flex/Silverlight comparison I covered both technologies in last month's The Three Horse Advanced Web UI Race.

Ikayzo - Design • Build • Localize | Web • Desktop • Mobile

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Comment by Daniel Leuck on July 3, 2009 at 9:04am
Hi Brent. I met with two large banks during my trip to NY last month. Both are currently evaluating Silverlight as their next standard platform for trading and analytics applications. I was aware of numerous Flex pilots at major banks early last year but they all died when the markets blew up and R&D projects were frozen. I think SL 3 is compelling enough that they may not look back. If I had to back a RIA horse for the financial industry my money would be on SL.

re: SL vs. WPF (does cross platform matter)
Normally they don't care about the cross platform issue (as you know, Wall Street desktops are all Windows) but some are developing systems that they plan to make available to partners and customers. In these cases, its a bonus if not a hard requirement. Right now I see a lot more interest in SL than WPF.
Comment by Brent on July 3, 2009 at 5:48am
Hi Dan, given your experience implementing platforms for large banks, I was wondering if you could comment on your thoughts about Silverlight in the financial industry. Where do you see financial companies moving in terms of User interface design, both the large firms like banks (well, not so large anymore... :) ) to the smaller firms like financial consultancies and hegde funds. Will Silverlight become the default interface for risk platforms and alpha generators given the complex needs of these systems. (real time issues, complex quant modeling issues....). Or do you think that RIA wont even penetrate that space, meaning that these companies will just stick with something like WPF that can be served over a company intranet, but is still platform dependent, just because of the extra flexibility that it offers...... What do you think are the primary concerns of your clients in high finance?
Comment by Brent on July 2, 2009 at 7:45pm
Doesnt look like it:
"Despite the improvements, Guthrie acknowledged Silverlight 3 will not initially have a few sought-after features -- notably printing, microphone and webcam support, though he said in a Q&A that his team is working on those capabilities." from http://visualstudiomagazine.com/articles/2009/03/18/microsoft-releases-silverlight-3-beta-with-key-new-features.aspx
Comment by Daniel Leuck on July 2, 2009 at 7:21pm
Interesting. I hope they added support for mic and camera access. This is important for a lot of applications. Right now you have to embed a Flash movie and call back and forth via Javascript.
Comment by Brent on July 2, 2009 at 7:15pm
There is a rumor (although it looks rather official) that the Silverlight 3 release date is acutally July 10. I guess we will know soon ....
http://silverlight.net/forums/t/99042.aspx
Comment by Daniel Leuck on June 29, 2009 at 12:26am
Hi Truman - I don't see any way to access a webcam or mic in the current beta.
Comment by Truman Leung on June 28, 2009 at 8:33pm
Hi Dan, thanks for this write-up. Does Silverlight 3.0 have access to cameras and microphones?

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