Silverlight is FIZZING, Not Fizzling

Silverlight is FIZZING, Not Fizzling

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Any good politician, regardless of leaning, knows that the language you use to frame a topic is key to how it is perceived. By repeatedly using pejorative terms to describe your own position and that of your opponents, you start to move a debate onto your own terms. Of course, those with a little more critical insight can see beyond the rhetoric, and note that the act of saying something is just wishful thinking if it’s not actually backed up by facts.

I was therefore somewhat intrigued to read Adobe’s latest commentary on Silverlight, which implies that AIR is in huge demand and that interest in Silverlight is waning. It’s obviously in Adobe’s interests to try and create this perception – they want to protect their Flash market share by shutting out new market entrants – but just saying something doesn’t make it true.

Let’s look at the record. Adobe claim that they have 100 million downloads of AIR, and that “the vast majority are being driven by great, popular applications”, listing the likes of Adobe Media Player, Tweetdeck and Twhirl as the most popular examples. Yet they have been actively bundling AIR with Adobe [Acrobat] Reader, one of the most downloaded applications on the Internet, and you don’t even have an option to opt out of its installation. Can it really be true that “the vast majority are being driven by great, popular applications”? By framing AIR in this way, Adobe are hoping to create a self-fulfilling prophecy – but the reality is rather less positive.

Similarly, the idea that Silverlight is in anything other than rude health is more to do with what Adobe would like to be the case, rather than what actually is the case. The suggestion that “Silverlight adoption has fizzled out in the last 6-9 months” is pretty risible, in fact. For starters, Silverlight 2 shipped four months ago, and in just the first month of its availability, we saw over 100 million successful installations just on consumer machines. That doesn’t sound like “fizzling out” to me – in fact, it makes Garrett’s comments seem as if he’s living in a fantasy world.

Let’s look at the kinds of applications that use Silverlight 2 to great effect. We’ve already talked a lot about how the NBC coverage of the Olympics took full advantage of Silverlight, delivering five times as many video streams as the 2004 event in HD quality. Since then, we’ve seen many similar sites go live. Just looking at the media space alone:

  • The Democratic National Convention (covering the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democrat presidential candidate) and the official US Presidential Inauguration sites both chose Silverlight, and delivered seamless smooth streaming of the events despite huge traffic.
  • Netflix switched their Instant Watch video-on-demand service over to Silverlight 2, taking full advantage of the in-browser content protection support to offer a solution palatable to both content owners and consumers on Mac and PC.
  • Today Home Shopping Network released an upgraded Silverlight 2 version of their player that offers live and on-demand broadcast of their offerings.
  • In Europe, Silverlight is making huge strides. Sky (one of the largest satellite broadcasters in the world) launched a VoD service in December. As Planetstream notes, Silverlight “has already been adopted by some major European broadcasting & web companies, with live and on-demand content being offered by, amongst others, ITV, MSN UK, Radiotelevisione Italiana, RTL (Europe's largest TV, radio and production company), SBS, Setanta, France Television, L'Equipe TV and TF1. The implementation of Silverlight continues to grow significantly in European markets”.
  • Again today, the largest Italian television broadcaster, RAI, launched their new TV portal built entirely with Silverlight 2 and Windows Media Services, offering smooth streaming of VoD content across seven channels.
  • In Japan, the public broadcaster NHK has teamed up with other partners to launch JIB TV as an international TV portal. In Korea, SBS has built their own portal using Silverlight.
  • There’s a lot more coming (as you can imagine, we’ve got plenty of big announcements saved up for MIX09). And I know I’ve missed plenty here – this is just a quick skim of the ones that come to mind.

Of course, Silverlight is more than a media player – with a rich WPF-based application framework, enterprises and web sites are starting to use the new capabilities introduced in Silverlight 2 to build powerful RIAs. AOL Mail is just one very early example of this, but there are plenty of others in development that we’ll talk about in due course.

In short, we’re delighted with the progress of Silverlight, just four months after the release of Silverlight 2. While we’re not complacent about the work ahead, it’s almost amusing to read about stagnation when we’re seeing the Silverlight ecosystem really build momentum.

Don’t let Adobe’s attempt to frame the debate confuse you about the reality of the marketplace; instead, pick the tools that match your needs and skills. Whether you pick Flash or Silverlight, know that you’re choosing a technology that has broad market adoption and a vibrant ecosystem.

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  • I simply will not be using Silverlight until the readability of Fonts improves. It is unbearable and hurts my eyes. It is therefore impossible for me to use EVEN THOUGH I WANT TO USE IT VERY BADLY. It strains my eyes and my brain to read any type of text in Silverlight. I have 3 Silverlight projects on hold until this issue is resolved.

  • I have yet to start a project with Silverlight but I'm very impressed with it.  The Olympics video streaming made a believer out of me.  Any plans for the iPhone, I know Steve Jobs said Flash was too bulky.  One of Silverlight's benefits is the light footprint.  Perhaps, you could use your alliance with them from the ActiveSync deal to make it into the iPhone.  

  • Silverlight is a fantastic platform to develop for - they packed so much into that little 4MB download. It is hard to imagine anything BUT a very bright future for silverlight.

  • It may not be as impressive in numbers as, say, the Olympics, because it is designer and developer oriented, but Quince ( is a just-released Silverlight 2-based application used to explore UX design patterns.

  • Adobe's rhetoric is hardly surprising. It's the same people who argued that a free PDF exporter was bad for consumers, and ran to the courts to protect themselves. They know their products suck, and it's only a matter of time before developers realize what a POS Flash is. They just haven't had an alternative. Can't wait to see what you guys have cooked up for Mix (although you should probably have your attorneys on call.)

  • Marketing is fun, isn't it?

    Adobe and Sony seem to often take part in something like the Overton Window ( I remember before the PS3 was released a very impressive video was released by Sony that was supposed to be one of their games. They never lied and said that it was the game itself running, but they didn't correct the foolish press who assumed it wasn't just a movie Sony made.

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  • I think people want to hear something other than NBC Olympics at the top of that list, and something equally as big post 2.0-release.

    CNN was using PhotoSynth and the Silverlight-based viewer for the Presedentail inauguration, but there was no attribution on-air to Microsoft - did they want money for that?

    I'd also like to hear about enterprise installs.  It's hard to see that as the technology to go with for serious development of an enterprise solution when there are only consumer figures, appreciating that enterprise number are harder to get.  Also the 100 million number was a PDC number, i.e. very old news.  What are the new numbers and the enterprise numbers?

  • Nice last sentance lol...

    "its ok pick flash or silverlight..................... or silverlight" ;)

  • Hi Tim, I'm sure there was no intent to offend... the chief financial officer was discussing trends and drivers behind the total business, and an audience member followed up with a question specifically about Silverlight. The view from that high-level perspective then got pullquoted into a headline.

    I agree with you that, from a developer's perspective, you should "pick the tools that match your needs and skills."


  • jd, thanks for your gracious response. I certainly wasn't offended, but equally since this was picked up by Techmeme I wanted the opportunity to ensure both sides of the story are told.

    If this comment is taken out of context and is inaccurate, you'll presumably be following up with BetaNews to ensure that the article is corrected? :-)

    Best wishes, Tim

  • Well, I know of no one that plans on even looking at Silverlight, much less using it, so from my travels between customers, Silverlight is just a flash in the pan.

  • You know a technology is dead when the purveyors of that technology start defending claims that their technology is dead.

  • Well said, Dr. Sneath!

    Silverlight is not just FIZZING (no 'L')... it's FANTASTIC, FABULOUS, and FREAKIN' amazing!  Let the adobe faithful frame it as they will... our clients are clamoring for Silverlight.  To have such high demand, especially in this economy, portends only good things for Silverlight.  And from a developer's perspective, it's a no brainer...  Silverlight is the best web platform, hands down!  :-)

  • never install flash and i will never install any version of acrobat with air in it. adobe sucks as far as i'm concerned.

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