Apple's iOS pushes Microsoft to dial down Silverlight for HTML5

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
While Apple's success with its mobile iOS platform is credited with invoking the proliferation of HTML5 video at the expense of Adobe's Flash, it's also causing a major shift in strategy for Microsoft's Silverlight.



At its Professional Developers Conference this week, Microsoft scaled back its plans for Silverlight, instead refocusing upon HTML5 as the platform for dynamic content on the web. It specifically cited Apple's iOS as a core reason for doing so.



The original Flash-killer



Like Flash, Silverlight was originally aimed at delivering a cross-platform method for delivering dynamic, interactive content and video, particularly (but not exclusively) on the web. Since that's what Flash was already doing, Microsoft targeted Flash for replacement with Silverlight.



Four years ago, Microsoft removed Flash from default installation on new PCs starting with Windows Vista, and lined up a series of partners who delivered videos exclusively in the new Silverlight format, initially using Microsoft's own WMA 9 video format.



Back in 2007, the threat of Microsoft using its monopoly position with Windows to crush Flash was great enough for California and several other states to seek a five year extension of the terms of Microsoft's antitrust settlement so as to prevent the company from using Windows to "tilt the playing field" in favor of Silverlight and against Flash.



While the tech media didn't report Microsoft's assault on Flash with nearly as much gusto as their provocative assault on Apple for backing web standards over either company's plugin, proprietary development platform, it was web standards (and Apple's support for them) that won out in the end.



Apple leverages iPhone sales to marginalize proprietary plugin threats



Some fuss was made in 2007 over the fact that Apple's iPhone didn't run Flash, but nobody observed that the iPhone also failed to run Silverlight. In reality, neither Flash nor Silverlight were capable of running on a mobile device at the time; Adobe didn't ship a functional mobile beta of the full Flash until this year, and Microsoft has similarly just delivered its first mobile version of Silverlight in Windows Phone 7.



Over the last four years, sales of the iPhone, iPod touch and most recently the iPad have positioned Apple's iOS as the most attractive mobile platform to reach. According to NetApplications, iOS is the third largest platform (in terms of web use) behind Windows and the Mac, ahead of JavaME and Linux, and larger than Symbian, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, BREW, PlayStation and Wii combined.



Apple's mobile platform isn't "another platform to reach," it's the mobile platform to reach. This realization caused Adobe much grief earlier this year when it finally sank in that there was no straightforward way to get Flash-developed content to play on iOS devices like the iPad. Adobe has since rolled out demonstrations of tools designed to create HTML5 animations.



Desperately seeks standards



Microsoft has similarly backed down from its initial efforts to tie dynamic content to the proprietary Windows development tools within Silverlight. In 2008, Microsoft added support for H.264 video in addition to its own WMV 9, in large part due to the shift Apple had achieved in pushing widespread adoption of MPEG standards in iTunes and with the iPod.



With the continuing success of the iPhone and iPod touch, and particularly with launch of the iPad, Apple has done for HTML5 what it did with H.264 video and AAC audio before it: cultivated a huge demand for standards-based content on a popular device that's simply unable to play other, proprietary formats.



Microsoft earlier attempted to force adoption of its Windows Media Audio and Windows Media Video codecs in competition with the iPod, first with PlaysForSure and later with the Zune. However, its failure to even establish a beachhead in the war on Apple's iPod likely played a part in Microsoft's current decision to dial down the role of Silverlight and instead focus on HTML5 as the way to deliver dynamic web content.



Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Servers and Tools Division, told ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley that, while Silverlight has some ?sweet spots? in media and line-of-business applications, it's now seen primarily as the application platform for Windows Phone.



That positions Silverlight as being the "Cocoa Touch" of WP7, rather than a cross platform killer of Flash on the web.



Noting that "our [Silverlight] strategy has shifted," Muglia explained, "HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything, including [Apple?s] iOS platform."



Microsoft's chief of engineering on Internet Explorer, Dean Hachamovitch, had earlier introduced the company's development conference, commenting in his keynote address, "HTML5 enables you to make engaging and interactive sites. With full hardware acceleration of the browser, HTML5 pages feel and run like an app or a game.?



And, most importantly, they can run on Apple's iOS.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    While Apple's success with its mobile iOS platform is credited with invoking the proliferation of HTML5 video at the expense of Adobe's Flash, it's also causing a major shift in strategy for Microsoft's Silverlight.



    ...

    And, most importantly, they can run on Apple's iOS.



    Adobe also.
  • Reply 2 of 52
    patspats Posts: 112member
    Nicely done Daniel. The Silverlight and Flash IDE are now going to spit out HTML 5 which should help accelerate the shift to a new web standard. Bravo.
  • Reply 3 of 52
    zindakozindako Posts: 468member
    Great article Dan, finally we will have a capable standard that can run video and animation on mobile devices that is power efficient and non CPU taxing.
  • Reply 4 of 52
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    So while the "open" and standards loving Google continues to flout the proprietary, closed Flash as a differentiator for their Android platform, the "closed" and controlling, hates the open Web Apple is actually driving content providers towards standards based solutions-- and dragging the entire industry with them.



    If Netflix switches to HTML 5 compliant delivery of their streaming video, it's all over.
  • Reply 5 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by CurtisEMayle View Post


    Adobe also.



    Jobs did say that Adobe should concentrate on creating HTML5 authoring tools instead of criticizing Apple. I doubt Flash will ever die but I think Adobe can recycle it as an HTML5 tool and stay alive.
  • Reply 6 of 52
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Adobe didn't ship a functional mobile beta of the full Flash until this year, and Microsoft has similarly just delivered its first mobile version of Silverlight in Windows Phone 7.



    Pogue says WP7 doesn't run Silverlight.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Pogue at NYT




    Like the iPhone, the Web browser doesn?t play Flash videos on the Web ? but it also won?t play the HTML5 videos that the iPhone plays, or even videos in Microsoft?s own Silverlight format. So, no YouTube, no Hulu, no online news videos.



    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/28/te...ogue.html?_r=1
  • Reply 7 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by addabox View Post


    So while the "open" and standards loving Google continues to flout the proprietary, closed Flash as a differentiator for their Android platform, the "closed" and controlling, hates the open Web Apple is actually driving content providers towards standards based solutions-- and dragging the entire industry with them.



    If Netflix switches to HTML 5 compliant delivery of their streaming video, it's all over.



    You do know that Android does HTML 5 correct?
  • Reply 8 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wurm5150 View Post


    Jobs did say that Adobe should concentrate on creating HTML5 authoring tools instead of criticizing Apple. I doubt Flash will ever die but I think Adobe can recycle it as an HTML5 tool and stay alive.



    I would think so. I'm cautiously encouraged by these particular comments of Nack's:



    Quote:

    Adobe lives or dies by its ability to help customers solve real problems. That means putting pragmatism ahead of ideology.



    Flash is great for a lot of things, and this week’s demos showed it’s only improving. It’s not the only game in town, however, and Adobe makes its money selling tools, not giving away players. Let’s help people target whatever media** they need, as efficiently as possible.



  • Reply 9 of 52
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FurbiesAndBeans View Post


    You do know that Android does HTML 5 correct?



    And they're using that to make a big deal of how Android handsets do the "full internet" are they? Google and the HTML 5 consortium like to show up together in public and talk about how they're best buddies? Android handsets are driving adoption of HTML compliance because they don't have proprietary Flash to fall back on?
  • Reply 10 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    Pogue says WP7 doesn't run Silverlight.







    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/28/te...ogue.html?_r=1



    This is where is gets confusing:



    [1] Pogue is correct in that Windows Phone 7 doesn't support the Silverlight plugin in the web browser.

    [2] However all third party applications are developed using Silverlight/XNA.
  • Reply 11 of 52
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by columbus View Post


    This is where is gets confusing:



    [1] Pogue is correct in that Windows Phone 7 doesn't support the Silverlight plugin in the web browser.

    [2] However all third party applications are developed using Silverlight/XNA.





    iPhone doesn't run Xcode IDE either. When comparing Adobe Flash finally delivering full Flash for mobile and in the same sentence saying MS delivered Silverlight with WP7, I fail to see the relevance if in fact WP7 does not play Silverlight content. I'm confused. Which is it? Yes or no? Does Silverlight content play in an app or what?
  • Reply 12 of 52
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    Wooped 'em again, didn't we Josey?



    Whooped 'em again, boy!...



    (at the very end of this short clip of the movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales")

    /

    /

    /

    /

    /
  • Reply 13 of 52
    patspats Posts: 112member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by addabox View Post


    So while the "open" and standards loving Google continues to flout the proprietary, closed Flash as a differentiator for their Android platform, the "closed" and controlling, hates the open Web Apple is actually driving content providers towards standards based solutions-- and dragging the entire industry with them.



    If Netflix switches to HTML 5 compliant delivery of their streaming video, it's all over.



    They already serve up H.264 via Apple TV, iPad & iPhone so it won't be long. My guess is the DRM requirements will take a bit to sort out and you'll need an app for that.
  • Reply 14 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    iPhone doesn't run Xcode IDE either. When comparing Adobe Flash finally delivering full Flash for mobile and in the same sentence saying MS delivered Silverlight with WP7, I fail to see the relevance if in fact WP7 does not play Silverlight content. I'm confused. Which is it? Yes or no? Does Silverlight content play in an app or what?



    1) All WP7 apps (at least 3rd party) are Silverlight apps.

    2) Silverlight _content_ on a web page does not play inside the web browser on WP7.



    So in other words, Silverlight is the native app technology on WP7, pretty much like Cocoa Touch is on iOS.
  • Reply 15 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mstone View Post


    iPhone doesn't run Xcode IDE either. When comparing Adobe Flash finally delivering full Flash for mobile and in the same sentence saying MS delivered Silverlight with WP7, I fail to see the relevance if in fact WP7 does not play Silverlight content. I'm confused. Which is it? Yes or no? Does Silverlight content play in an app or what?



    Yeah. Basically Adobe supports "special" flash on mobile devices and Microsoft supports "special" silverlight. They are both modified to run better on a mobile device. As a result they lost their ability to be cross platform. They can still be cross-phone. I'm surprised that Adobe isn't taking Microsofts strategy. It seems like they could try to get mobile phones to use Flash as the app platform. Maybe it just isn't fast enough. I think it is still an interpreted language. At least silverlight is just-in-time compiled.
  • Reply 16 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by addabox View Post


    And they're using that to make a big deal of how Android handsets do the "full internet" are they? Google and the HTML 5 consortium like to show up together in public and talk about how they're best buddies? Android handsets are driving adoption of HTML compliance because they don't have proprietary Flash to fall back on?



    Don't start pulling this line now that AI has ran an article about it. To me, it's great that Android does Flash and HTML5, it doesn't put restriction to the user about what they can see. While it is true that Jobs wants HTML5 to be the standard, it is also true that up until April of this year (Source) the main reason people said there wasn't flash was because it was buggy, drained battery, etc... Please note that "pushing the standard" didn't come until after that article





    PS: I don't have either an Android or iPhone because the iPhone isn't on verizon, but my wife does have a Droid X.
  • Reply 17 of 52
    The different uses of Silverlight can be a little confusing, as it is not only a web plugin. Silverlight apps can also run out-of-browser on the desktop. And it is the app format/framework for WP7.



    But (at least currently) IE on WP7 cannot display Silverlight plugins on regular web pages.



    Hence the confusion...



    In any case, Silverlight seems actually to be in good shape as a line-of-business application framework on the desktop, where it has many nice features, and can be rolled out easily. But it's good of Microsoft to point out that it's not really there to do stuff you can do in HTML(5).
  • Reply 18 of 52
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FurbiesAndBeans View Post


    Don't start pulling this line now that AI has ran an article about it. To me, it's great that Android does Flash and HTML5, it doesn't put restriction to the user about what they can see. While it is true that Jobs wants HTML5 to be the standard, it is also true that up until April of this year (Source) the main reason people said there wasn't flash was because it was buggy, drained battery, etc... Please note that "pushing the standard" didn't come until after that article





    PS: I don't have either an Android or iPhone because the iPhone isn't on verizon, but my wife does have a Droid X.



    I am wondering with the AppStore changes if Apple will allow Flash in 3rd party browsers. I understand why they wouldn't want it in Safari and am happy it is not there. Freedom of choice is good, but if you can't elect not to have it that is worse. Especially since a lot of people hate it for the performance issues. ClickToFlash has been a life saver on my Mac.
  • Reply 19 of 52
    asciiascii Posts: 5,699member
    It's interesting that when Microsoft wanted to kill Flash, they made their own competing plugin, but when Apple wanted to kill Flash they did it by backing standards.



    In retrospect of course Apple's approach is more likely to succeed because it has the possibility of attracting allies (in this case Microsoft of all people) but Microsoft's approach would only have replaced one proprietary tech with another (theirs), so not much chance of gaining allies there!
  • Reply 20 of 52
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FurbiesAndBeans View Post


    Don't start pulling this line now that AI has ran an article about it. To me, it's great that Android does Flash and HTML5, it doesn't put restriction to the user about what they can see. While it is true that Jobs wants HTML5 to be the standard, it is also true that up until April of this year (Source) the main reason people said there wasn't flash was because it was buggy, drained battery, etc... Please note that "pushing the standard" didn't come until after that article



    Oh yeah? Well then explain Apple’s presence with W3 to ratify HTML5 and their open source WebKit browser engine pushing HTML5 as far back as 2007 if they are only “pushing the standard” “after that article”?



    PS: You keep saying Android does Flash and HTML5 but you are failing to note that the very limited scope of Android devices and number of units that can actually utilize Flash.
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