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Silverlight 2.0 Beta Out, Not Good Enough

Posted by Charles | March 5, 2008 .

Microsoft released Silverlight 2.0 beta at MIX08. You can get it from here. For developers want to give it a spin, go download Silverlight tools for VS2008, which provides a Silverlight project system for developing Silverlight applications using C# or Visual Basic. Silverlight Tools Beta 1 for Visual Studio 2008 includes:

  • Visual Basic and C# Project templates
  • Intellisense and code generators for XAML
  • Debugging of Silverlight applications
  • Web reference support
  • Integration with Expression Blend

The most significant new development from Silverlight 2.0 is full set of controls, which the first time makes Silverlight a tool for developers. Before this, Silverlight is merely an engine with raw framework.

We all started learning Flex by going through Flex Component Explorer, Microsoft goes to the same proven route (surprise) with Silverlight Control Demo Page. I’ll do a comparison later. From a quick review, Silverlight has much less controls than Flex has. The styles of the controls are obviously not as pretty as Flex’s. This observation is not based on how much I like Flex. I think Silverlight’s controls might be intentionally designed to be what they are (or MS people are not as artistic as Adobe’s). Because those controls look more close to HTML controls’ look and feel. Flex’s, in the other hand, are distinguishably different from HTML UI style. Even though adding controls is a huge step forward for Silverlight, I don’t think they did a good job. Flex 1.5 did much much better improvement than Flex 1.0. They did created sense of hype around 2.0 but I kinda feel relief a bit. I think Silverlight is still many steps behind Flex, at least from developers’ perspective.

slexplorer Silverlight 2.0 Beta Out, Not Good Enough

And, as wrote about yesterday, Microsoft announced Silverlight 1.0 for Mobile today. They will have the First Developer CTP for Silverlight for mobile available in 2nd Quarter of CY 2008 targeting Windows Mobile 6. Initially only Silverlight 1.0 (not 2.0) will run on mobile devices. Because XAML is the foundation of Silverlight, Microsoft Expression Studio will provide features for designing Silverlight. Expression Design can be used for creating the visual elements while wiring the design with code can be done with either Expression Blend or with Visual Studio.

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5 Comments so far
  1. TJ Downes  March 6, 2008 12:13 am

    Being a Flex developer myself, I am thinking the SilverLight edge may just be the mobile devices. Apple has a point in their decision not to support Flash on the iPhone. Flash is too heavy for a mobile device… I’ve seen it working on Nokia devices and they are a grind. Flash Lite, well it’s just not there yet. Flash needs a good in-between for the mobile platform and I haven’t seen anything on the direction of Flash Lite. Perhaps MS is sneaking in on the action, I guess we will need to wait and see.

  2. Moxie  March 6, 2008 11:34 am

    TJ, the “Silverlight mobile edge” is a very interesting observation. I think you might on to something. If think about the mobile space in large, there are Google’s Android came out laster, there are OpenMoko, QTopia, Limo, etc. and JavaFX, they are all pushing hard into mobile recently. And we all know Microsoft Mobile sucks and it can’t win over Symbian. So, why not just a small piece, say, Silverlight. Makes great sense.
    Let’s see what Adobe will do.

  3. Crawford  March 14, 2008 1:07 pm

    I agree that Silverlight is behind compared to Flex and Flash. JIts not the first release of Microsoft’s products that consume current technologies but their 3rd or 4th release of a product. For example JSP/Java was ahead of ASP but now .Net has taken over more of the marketplace. I am worried that .Net programmers will migrate to Silverlight since its part of VS and not because of its capabilities. That’s what makes me worried for Adobe.

  4. Dimitar G.  April 16, 2008 1:01 pm

    Well, things could be much easier if Adobe has been decided to allow a port to use other languages too to develop Flex apps. There is nothing wrong with AS 3.0, it’s just majority of developers are using others. And 2 years ago everyone was laughing of the XAML approach of tag-based designing while lately we all start seeing this is quite handy. Simplicity and transparency in Actionscript custom component development APIs are hard to use words in Flex even now, in its version 3 (mx_internal yeah right). Skinning is still pain the neck, styling too, “Thermo” release date is unknown…

    MS on the other hand gains an edge with SL 2.0. XAML is there (i.e. no FLA/bitmap), official release will support all .NET compatible 2.0 language compilers, highly logical and transparent way of custom component development, thorough documentation, multi-core support, etc. etc.

    MS additionally gains market share because they learn from their mistakes and try not to stay rigid. Imagine J2EE without .NET competition. J2EE was bloated anyway and could be times more if there was no competition.

    Reminds me as what happened with Laszlo when Flex first stepped. Flex reused heavily the Laszlo ideas, MS uses some Flex ideas into their SL APIs and there is nothing wrong with any approach.

    The wrong thing is companies like Adobe needed a kick from a company like MS to realize it’s time to rethink what we, the users need as Flex dev and business cycle and I am crossing fingers they are not too late in reassessing these needs.

  5. invoke41  May 10, 2008 9:16 am

    Came across this while googling. A major gripe seems to be the way controls look in Silverlight 2.0. One word: control templates. Actually thats two but you can pretty much customize the entire look and appearance of the controls to suit. MS has just included the basic look and feel.

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