Silverlight and the killer whales

I know Orcas didn’t really spring from the Orca the Whale movies, but I think that there will be similar huge momentum behind the marketing for the Silverlight and new Visual Studio tools. The battle for the browser animation has stepped up to the next level. Flash has now got a worthy competitor. Building ASP web pages has grown through the dotNet versions to become a very sophisticated system for the developers. The controls are sophisticated, can easily run server side or client side, have access to xml tools. The Database bindings are becoming much easier to use, web services and TCP sockets are almost trivial now compared to all the learning we had to struggle though just a few years ago. I really think that I should have just closed my eyes and ears for a year or two, it would have saved a lot of pain. Those three monkeys really were wise.

Orcas, the latesty Version of Visual Studio, takes this to another level, but brings with it a really well integrated solution. There will be many Microsoft developers that will follow this solution to create their animated interfaces. It is so easy to switch from the Visual Studio interface to the Expression Blend web designer. This has animation facilities built in. It may not be as sophisticated as the Flesh developement GUi but the programmer can take controls seamlesssly back into the programming environment that they are comfortable with. I’ve spent the last year or so getting excited about javascript and Flash again after a few years away. The new developments and speed (javascript speed that is, not the speed of Eclipse debugging) and projects like Papervision and the Apollo framework make it so easy to make effective cross platform applications. Visual Studio however, just shines through with its professional power. Any language can be used, python, ruby, Csharp; the use of web services is so easy, it can use JSON and other libraries, LINQ tools for the database etc. The visual studio editor has a rich class library that many programmers are using every day. It will not be a steep learning curve for them to go to event handling and animation in the same familiar system. The XAML will be fairly transparent in the same way as mxml is in the Flash programming interface. Most of the programming is done in the language files and code completion makes it straightforward to attach code to the events from the user interface. Silverlight just slips in so easily and can display web service data without thinking.

If you’d like to see a demo, have a look at Scott’s introduction. He shows a simple mashup similar to those we saw a few months ago on the Flex roadshows. It looks just as slick.

One of the sites that shows some of the future ideas of Silverlight is the popfly site from Microsoft. It has a similar feel to the yahoo tubes project; pull a few blocks around and link them together. The data goes from one to another until the final display control or gadget. The gadgets can then be mashed into a normal web page. It’s still in alpha test mode at the moment, but if you sign up, you should get an invite within a few days. If you have Silverlight installed, you can have a look at my less than exciting page with a random gauge here

Next development will presumeably be the stand-alone version to compete with Apollo and Google Gears. It is a strange coincidence that I chose to use the CNET technology awards graphic. It was just conveniently there when I needed a picture; I heard later about Google Gears. Seems strange to me that a technology award is shown by some mis-designed gears that would work as well as my granny’s false teeth!

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