Microsoft's Silverlight 1.0 RIA (Rich Internet Application) plug-in recently shipped to no little fanfare, but...
No matter what language they use, many developers will wish to forego basic 'button building' that is still a part of much Silverlight app building. Many developers will count on third-party component vendors to provide basic controls, buttons, grids and sliders. Vendor ComponentOne foresees the need for off-the-shelf Silverlight components and has announced its Studio for Silverlight (code-named Sapphire). The plans are for the product release to coincide with the release of Microsoft Silverlight 1.1.
ComponentOne was on hand to demonstrate Silverlight 1.1 components at this week's ReMIX07Boston event. The initial impression is that Silverlight, for now, is a very young alternative to Adobe Flash. But it has far more platform diversity than the typical Microsoft product. At ReMix07, attendees saw Silverlight running on PHP on Linux, the Mac and, or course, Windows.
''Silverlight is ultimately going to be a platform to compete with Flash,'' said Todd Schick, director of business development at ComponentOne. ''It is a cross-browser, cross-platform rich Internet application technology.''
Schick said the Silverlight 1.1 stage will be significant. ''You take all that and put that on top of the CLR, and you can do application development using .NET.''
The Sapphire toolset for Silverlight includes basic interface controls such as buttons, containers, date/time, lists, sliders, and text as well as grid and chart controls, according to Schick. Silverlight skins, graphics, and animation are supported too.
At ReMIX07Boston, Ian Hilton, CEO of established Flash house Lightmaker.com, said his company partnered with Component One on an eCommerce merchandise application prototype for a professional sports team that included 3D interactive seat selection. Hilton said Silverlight and associated tools show promise of bridging the gap between the skills of developers and Web page designers.
''We saw form and function married in a way we hadn't seen,'' said Hilton. The prototype is ''a commerce application built into a cool look and feel,'' he continued. Hilton showed the prototype and a players' stats sortable grid element that was built with the ComponentOne Silverlight 1.1 component set. The component development was ''tricky'' and the ComponentOne suite ''saved time, '' Hilton said.
Quick forms-driven apps
Burton Group analyst Peter O'Kelly agrees that Flash is the direct competitor for Silverlight. Further, he says both Flash and Silverlight go way beyond Ajax.''
''What you can do is much more powerful," he said, adding, though, that Ajax is quite useful in many applications.
Certainly, the success of YouTube-style video-oriented interfaces will drive programming models like Silverlight. But, says O'Kelly, it won't always be about interactive multimedia. ''Flex [the Flash design environment] and Silverlight will be competing with VB [6 and before] and Delphi for slapping out those quick form-driven applications, '' he said.
And third-party vendors will play a role. ''Companies like ComponentOne, Telerik an others are doing components for Silverlight. They are not doing it for fun. ISVs are voting with their resources,'' O'Kelly said.
Hitting a wall
Microsoft does not yet have a date set for releasing the more robust Silverlight 1.1 beta, said Brad Abrams, group program manager for the UI Framework and Services Team in an interview at ReMIX07Boston. But, he added that "it is not far away." Viewers suggest that this may mean a 1.1 beta will arrive late this year or early in 2008.
While the release of the ComponentOne Studio for Silverlight 1.1 is pegged to the date of the Microsoft release, ComponentOne is letting interested developers 'kick the tires.' The alpha version of Sapphire and Silverlight 1.1 can be explored through ComponentOne Labs.