I’m taking Silverlight (a little) more seriously

There’s been a lot of buzz about Silverlight lately thanks to the release of Sliverlight 2 beta at MIX08.

It’s pretty well know that Silverlight isn’t exactly breaking new ground, and it’s still got a long way to go to be a match for Flash. But, the latest announcements have definitely changed my mind about how Silverlight is going to impact the industry. I still don’t think it’s a Flash killer, but I think it’s proven it’s potential to become a big competitor for Flash.

“Potential” is the key word there. We’re definitely not at a full blown Silverlight vs. Flash debate yet. Though, that is happening on a smaller scale in some pockets of the industry. And I think it’s going to start happening more — and possibly a lot sooner– than you think.

The install base argument

The biggest reason I hear people say silverlight will never be a real competitor for Flash is the lack of install base. A lot of us thought that Microsoft may push out the Silverlight plug-in with a Windows update. Boom. There’s your instant install base. I don’t think that’s going to happen anymore. I was half wrong there, apparently the Silverlight plug-in is being offered as an optional update on Vista.

They’re using their weight and deep pockets to form big partnerships to get consumers to adopt the Silverlight player. Want to watch NBC’s online olympics coverage? You’ll have to install Silverlight. Want to watch your Netflix on your PC? You’ll need Silverlight. If there’s no other way to get that kind of big name content, the average web user is going to install it and your install base is going to grow fast.

On the developer’s side

Silverlight 2 supports development in multiple languages (JavaScript, C++, C#, VB, Ruby and Python). Silverlight 2 also is said to be target more at developers. (While Silverlight 1 was all about the video).

Sure, AS3 is much closer to a “serious” programming language. But, there’s a lot more developers out there who already work in .NET than who know ActionScript of any kind. That’s a very large pool of developers who would have a learning curve of next to nothing to start developing Silverlight apps.

They may not be considering it in large numbers yet, but if they were faced with the choice between developing for one or the other, their choice would seem obvious. I think we’ll be seeing more examples Silverlight RIAs popping up soon.

Competition is good

Having a competitor like Silverlight in the picture is good for all of us in the Flash world. Even if you never decide to try Silverlight yourself, it’s still a good thing for you that it exists. The competition will force Adobe to make sure Flash ( and all the related Flash Platfrom tools) are as high quality as they can be.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. If it comes down to a battle, I’m still rooting for Flash to win. But honestly, there’s probably room for them both.