Microsoft has delivered a new edition of Silverlight annually since it introduced the technology in 2007. Microsoft has invested heavily in its development, and some of its resources have been applied to territory that is usually occupied by its development partners.
Silverlight is a subset of the .NET framework that it optimized for building Web applications. .NET developers follow the programming model that they are accustomed to, which includes a standard set of controls provided by Microsoft.
Microsoft shipped more than 130 controls in Silverlight 3. That is an unprecedented amount, because Microsoft typically includes 15–20 controls “for people to play with” when it ships a new platform, said Lino Tadros, CEO of Falafel Software.
Tadros said that the breadth and volume of controls that Microsoft has shipped is “alarming” to its development partners. “It usually left a grid [control] for third parties to take care of…Partners cannot create the [basic] controls; Microsoft has covered it.”
Further, the high quality of Microsoft’s controls is “surprising,” Tadros added. Microsoft shipped a “basic” grid with ASP.NET and Windows Forms, but its Silverlight control is “well designed and scalable,” doing “90%” of what third-party vendors’ products do, he said.
Microsoft has a “responsibility” to deliver baseline controls for developers to access technical functionality, said Brian Goldfarb, director of Web/UX Platform and Tools at Microsoft. “There is also a competitive landscape in the RIA space,” and Microsoft is responding to customers and competitive demands, he added.
“Partners innovate on top of controls…Microsoft is deeply committed to the partner ecosystem, and the fact that it exists at all is a testament to that,” said Goldfarb.
Tadros does not believe that Microsoft is attempting to compete with its own partners. Rather, Adobe is the target. “Microsoft is spending a lot [of resources] with companies to make sure that websites and application are running well, and to get the [Silverlight] plug-in installed.”
The company is leveraging the .NET Framework in order to compete with Adobe, said Dart Communications CEO Mike Baldwin. “Microsoft’s technique for competing against Adobe is to not only provide a Flash alternative, but also to build additional [technology] support within .NET,” he explained.
When Microsoft first shipped the .NET Framework, it was essentially an application framework akin to Microsoft Foundation Classes, where Microsoft provided a foundation for developers to build on without getting overly specific about what it would enable developers to do, said Baldwin.
Now, the .NET Framework has morphed into a “technology delivery platform” that in some cases applies a proprietary solution toward a particular problem, Baldwin said. Microsoft’s approach to ASP.NET AJAX was proprietary, he claimed.
Microsoft has since targeted a broader set of AJAX developers by adding jQuery support and releasing the Microsoft AJAX library to open source, Goldfarb added. “It works with PHP on the back end if you want it to.”
Goldfarb noted that the .NET programming model provides customers with the choice of its low-level base class libraries to build “anything from scratch,” as well as higher-level constructs that were added to the framework to simplify common scenarios.
Dart Communications is making its products Mono-compatible to avoid any potential proprietary .NET extensions, Baldwin said. The Mono project is an open-source implementation of the Common Language Infrastructure, a technology that was created by Microsoft and subsequently standardized by ECMA and ISO International.
Microsoft has provided technological assistance to the Mono project, as well as made some of its associated intellectual property for .NET, including XAML, available under its Open Specification Promise or available under open-source licenses.
The OSP is an irrevocable promise by Microsoft not to assert its intellectual property rights for covered technologies.
In a previous interview, Goldfarb said that Mono’s “Moonlight,” an open-source variant of Silverlight, will help protect customers’ Silverlight investments.