A new tool called Eclipse4SL is coming out that allows Eclipse developers to work on Silverlight applications. This will bring even more pressure to bear on Adobe Flash’s market domination.

Flash is a good technology for what it is, and I believe Silverlight to be as well. I am not a super huge fan of the space’s concept, but the tech itself is solid. Let’s take a quick look at what Silverlight is doing to take over the RIA throne:

  • Silverlight for the Olympic Web sites and on Microsoft.com, as well as being deployed through Windows Update, means that a good portion of users have the Silverlight plug-in.
  • Silverlight works in Internet Explorer in Windows, Firefox on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and Safari on Windows and Mac; there are also ways to sort of get Silverlight to work in Chrome. This means that probably 95% or more of the Web browsing public can run Silverlight.
  • Silverlight does video better than Flash.
  • MSDN support. You just need some Visual Studio plug-ins and Expression Blend to work with Silverlight. Unlike Flash, the cost to start working with Silverlight is $0 for most developers already on the Microsoft platform.
  • Silverlight allows you to reuse existing .NET knowledge.
  • The intangible: momentum and enthusiasm. A lot of people are talking about Silverlight and trying it out. I don’t hear many people talking about Air/Flex. Maybe it’s just the crowd I run in, or maybe it’s that Adobe has a different target audience in mind than me.

I’m not trying to be a Silverlight salesperson here; I’m just saying that if I were the folks at Adobe, I would be pretty worried right now.

The real kicker is the cost factor. I have a client for whom I occasionally do Web site work. They have a simple little animation that was done in Flash. I no longer have access to a legit version of Flash, so when he asks me to edit this animation once a year, I have to go digging up Flash editors for about one hour’s worth of use. The work does not pay enough (usually a few hundred dollars for a few hours’ worth of work) to justify plunking down $200 or more for Adobe’s Flash editor. Guess what? Next year, when Silverlight support is all over the place, I’m replacing that animation with Silverlight, simply out of concern for my bottom line.

This is where Adobe has really stumbled in my opinion. Sure, “creative professionals” get the Adobe CS suite for a good price — it is their equivalent to MSDN. But for a developer, the cost of Dreamweaver + Flash makes using Visual Studio (or Expression Web) + Silverlight quite attractive.


Disclosure of Justin’s industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides.


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