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More HTML 5 and Silverlight Hoopla

Check out Paul Thurrott’s latest take on Silverlight vs. HTML 5 in the wake of his and Mary Jo Foley’s reporting from the Professional Developer’s Conference (PDC10) held in the Seattle area last Thursday and Friday (10/28-29/2010) about which I wrote in my last blog (“MS Backs HTML5, Turns Down Silverlight“). His latest coverage is entitled “Microsoft and HTML 5: Solving the Compatibility Problem.” It follows up on the outcry that followed the eminently reasonable take on HTML 5 vs. Silverlight that Microsoft VP Bob Muglia shared with Mary Jo at that conference, but which put developers who’ve invested — some quite heavily — in Silverlight technologies up in arms, and in a furious uproar.

That’s why the Silverlight Team Blog includes some feasting upon crow from Mr. Muglia to the following effect “Silverlight is very important and strategic to Microsoft…[it’s] a core application development platform for Windows, and it’s the development platform for Microsoft Phone.” While this statement is certainly more consistent with Microsoft’s long-term, long-time position on Web applications and development technologies, like Mr. Thurrott, I’m disappointed to now understand that HTML 5 may not actually be Microsoft’s chosen way to bring together mobile and desktop views of Web sites, services, and even applications inside a single seamless and even standard environment.

Here’s a lengthy quote from Thurrott’s commentary with which I couldn’t agree more:

And when it comes to web standards, the industry is rallying around something called HTML 5, which is really HTML 5 plus a host of related technologies, including in-progress versions of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), the JavaScript/ECMAScript programming language, and more. HTML 5 is more promise than reality–right now–but even Microsoft is embracing it, their predictable backpedaling on Silverlight notwithstanding. It’s pretty clear that the changes we’re seeing in Internet Explorer 9 are only the beginning: I expect this trend to accelerate in Windows 8, due just 18 months from now.

On the mobile side, HTML 5 is a bit more future-leaning, but could, I think, bridge the gap between disparate and incompatible platforms like the iPhone, Android, and, soon, Windows Phone, just as it is on the desktop. Today, these smart phones all run different OSes with incompatible apps. But if developers create mobile web solutions instead of native apps–as they have on the desktop–this problem can be erased, where possible. In many cases, there won’t be any need to develop three completely different apps in different environments, and with different languages. Instead, they can create a single web app.

Thurrot says that Microsoft is “…embracing HTML 5 as its path to the future.” Gosh, I hope he’s right, but I’m not yet completely convinced that this is exactly what’s going on myself. I still see strong evidence that Microsoft is betting on more than one horse (Silverlight included) so as to be sure of backing the ultimate winner in that race.

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