July 06, 2011, 10:48 AM — Microsoft Silverlight has had a topsy-turvy year. Apparently doomed or at least marginalized by HTML5, Silverlight found a foothold in Windows Phone and has more recently emerged as a key component of the Jupiter application framework and programming model for Windows 8. If Silverlight has become less important as a rich Internet application (RIA) framework, it has become more important to Microsoft's desktop and mobile platforms overall.
In the meantime, the cross-platform RIA framework is still kicking -- though development has clearly slowed. More evolutionary than revolutionary, the "new" capabilities in Microsoft's Silverlight 5 beta merely incorporate existing Microsoft technologies and port functionality previously seen in WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation).
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More than a year has gone by without a major Silverlight release, and with none due until late 2011, I expected the forthcoming version 5 to be a major rev that would cement Silverlight's superiority over Adobe Flash. Instead, I was disappointed to find that many promised Silverlight 5 features are still missing or meager. Even the included code previews for satellite projects -- such as Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) RIA Services and Expression Blend -- do little more than gussy up existing capabilities.
In short, the Silverlight 5 beta looks more like a dot revision with feature creep than a major upgrade. Rather than extending Silverlight to continue hammering away at Adobe Flash, Microsoft seems to be working toward a desktop smackdown with itself -- adding Windows-specific platform invocation calls, Component Object Model (COM) support, and untethered file system access that push Silverlight deeper into the domains of .Net and WPF.