Silverlight is FIZZING, Not Fizzling

Any good politician, regardless of leaning, knows that the language you use to frame a topic is key to how it is perceived. By repeatedly using pejorative terms to describe your own position and that of your opponents, you start to move a debate onto your own terms. Of course, those with a little more critical insight can see beyond the rhetoric, and note that the act of saying something is just wishful thinking if it’s not actually backed up by facts.

I was therefore somewhat intrigued to read Adobe’s latest commentary on Silverlight, which implies that AIR is in huge demand and that interest in Silverlight is waning. It’s obviously in Adobe’s interests to try and create this perception – they want to protect their Flash market share by shutting out new market entrants – but just saying something doesn’t make it true.

Let’s look at the record. Adobe claim that they have 100 million downloads of AIR, and that “the vast majority are being driven by great, popular applications”, listing the likes of Adobe Media Player, Tweetdeck and Twhirl as the most popular examples. Yet they have been actively bundling AIR with Adobe [Acrobat] Reader, one of the most downloaded applications on the Internet, and you don’t even have an option to opt out of its installation. Can it really be true that “the vast majority are being driven by great, popular applications”? By framing AIR in this way, Adobe are hoping to create a self-fulfilling prophecy – but the reality is rather less positive.

Similarly, the idea that Silverlight is in anything other than rude health is more to do with what Adobe would like to be the case, rather than what actually is the case. The suggestion that “Silverlight adoption has fizzled out in the last 6-9 months” is pretty risible, in fact. For starters, Silverlight 2 shipped four months ago, and in just the first month of its availability, we saw over 100 million successful installations just on consumer machines. That doesn’t sound like “fizzling out” to me – in fact, it makes Garrett’s comments seem as if he’s living in a fantasy world.

Let’s look at the kinds of applications that use Silverlight 2 to great effect. We’ve already talked a lot about how the NBC coverage of the Olympics took full advantage of Silverlight, delivering five times as many video streams as the 2004 event in HD quality. Since then, we’ve seen many similar sites go live. Just looking at the media space alone:

  • The Democratic National Convention (covering the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democrat presidential candidate) and the official US Presidential Inauguration sites both chose Silverlight, and delivered seamless smooth streaming of the events despite huge traffic.

  • Netflix switched their Instant Watch video-on-demand service over to Silverlight 2, taking full advantage of the in-browser content protection support to offer a solution palatable to both content owners and consumers on Mac and PC.

  • Today Home Shopping Network released an upgraded Silverlight 2 version of their player that offers live and on-demand broadcast of their offerings.

  • In Europe, Silverlight is making huge strides. Sky (one of the largest satellite broadcasters in the world) launched a VoD service in December. As Planetstream notes, Silverlight “has already been adopted by some major European broadcasting & web companies, with live and on-demand content being offered by, amongst others, ITV, MSN UK, Radiotelevisione Italiana, RTL (Europe's largest TV, radio and production company), SBS, Setanta, France Television, L'Equipe TV and TF1. The implementation of Silverlight continues to grow significantly in European markets”.

  • Again today, the largest Italian television broadcaster, RAI, launched their new TV portal built entirely with Silverlight 2 and Windows Media Services, offering smooth streaming of VoD content across seven channels.

  • In Japan, the public broadcaster NHK has teamed up with other partners to launch JIB TV as an international TV portal. In Korea, SBS has built their own portal using Silverlight.

  • There’s a lot more coming (as you can imagine, we’ve got plenty of big announcements saved up for MIX09). And I know I’ve missed plenty here – this is just a quick skim of the ones that come to mind.

Of course, Silverlight is more than a media player – with a rich WPF-based application framework, enterprises and web sites are starting to use the new capabilities introduced in Silverlight 2 to build powerful RIAs. AOL Mail is just one very early example of this, but there are plenty of others in development that we’ll talk about in due course.

In short, we’re delighted with the progress of Silverlight, just four months after the release of Silverlight 2. While we’re not complacent about the work ahead, it’s almost amusing to read about stagnation when we’re seeing the Silverlight ecosystem really build momentum.

Don’t let Adobe’s attempt to frame the debate confuse you about the reality of the marketplace; instead, pick the tools that match your needs and skills. Whether you pick Flash or Silverlight, know that you’re choosing a technology that has broad market adoption and a vibrant ecosystem.

Comments (34)
  1. Anonymous says:

    I simply will not be using Silverlight until the readability of Fonts improves. It is unbearable and hurts my eyes. It is therefore impossible for me to use EVEN THOUGH I WANT TO USE IT VERY BADLY. It strains my eyes and my brain to read any type of text in Silverlight. I have 3 Silverlight projects on hold until this issue is resolved.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have yet to start a project with Silverlight but I’m very impressed with it.  The Olympics video streaming made a believer out of me.  Any plans for the iPhone, I know Steve Jobs said Flash was too bulky.  One of Silverlight’s benefits is the light footprint.  Perhaps, you could use your alliance with them from the ActiveSync deal to make it into the iPhone.  

  3. Anonymous says:

    Silverlight is a fantastic platform to develop for – they packed so much into that little 4MB download. It is hard to imagine anything BUT a very bright future for silverlight.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It may not be as impressive in numbers as, say, the Olympics, because it is designer and developer oriented, but Quince ( is a just-released Silverlight 2-based application used to explore UX design patterns.

  5. jackbond says:

    Adobe’s rhetoric is hardly surprising. It’s the same people who argued that a free PDF exporter was bad for consumers, and ran to the courts to protect themselves. They know their products suck, and it’s only a matter of time before developers realize what a POS Flash is. They just haven’t had an alternative. Can’t wait to see what you guys have cooked up for Mix (although you should probably have your attorneys on call.)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Marketing is fun, isn’t it?

    Adobe and Sony seem to often take part in something like the Overton Window ( I remember before the PS3 was released a very impressive video was released by Sony that was supposed to be one of their games. They never lied and said that it was the game itself running, but they didn’t correct the foolish press who assumed it wasn’t just a movie Sony made.

    Those who enjoyed this analysis should also read

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think people want to hear something other than NBC Olympics at the top of that list, and something equally as big post 2.0-release.

    CNN was using PhotoSynth and the Silverlight-based viewer for the Presedentail inauguration, but there was no attribution on-air to Microsoft – did they want money for that?

    I’d also like to hear about enterprise installs.  It’s hard to see that as the technology to go with for serious development of an enterprise solution when there are only consumer figures, appreciating that enterprise number are harder to get.  Also the 100 million number was a PDC number, i.e. very old news.  What are the new numbers and the enterprise numbers?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Nice last sentance lol…

    "its ok pick flash or silverlight………………… or silverlight" 😉

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi Tim, I’m sure there was no intent to offend… the chief financial officer was discussing trends and drivers behind the total business, and an audience member followed up with a question specifically about Silverlight. The view from that high-level perspective then got pullquoted into a headline.

    I agree with you that, from a developer’s perspective, you should "pick the tools that match your needs and skills."


  10. Tim Sneath says:

    jd, thanks for your gracious response. I certainly wasn’t offended, but equally since this was picked up by Techmeme I wanted the opportunity to ensure both sides of the story are told.

    If this comment is taken out of context and is inaccurate, you’ll presumably be following up with BetaNews to ensure that the article is corrected? 🙂

    Best wishes, Tim

  11. Anonymous says:

    Well, I know of no one that plans on even looking at Silverlight, much less using it, so from my travels between customers, Silverlight is just a flash in the pan.

  12. Anonymous says:

    You know a technology is dead when the purveyors of that technology start defending claims that their technology is dead.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Well said, Dr. Sneath!

    Silverlight is not just FIZZING (no ‘L’)… it’s FANTASTIC, FABULOUS, and FREAKIN’ amazing!  Let the adobe faithful frame it as they will… our clients are clamoring for Silverlight.  To have such high demand, especially in this economy, portends only good things for Silverlight.  And from a developer’s perspective, it’s a no brainer…  Silverlight is the best web platform, hands down!  🙂

  14. Gkeramidas says:

    never install flash and i will never install any version of acrobat with air in it. adobe sucks as far as i’m concerned.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Qualche pensiero sulla diffusione di Silverlight 2.0

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wow, there are some toughs comments against Adobe here… it’s sad there is sometimes no real arguments.

    I just wanted to know, Tim, as you speak of "over 100 million successful installations just on consumer machines", if you have a link with all these new numbers and the way you ensure the installation is completed.

    The last Silverlight numbers I remember are from october 2008… any updates since?

    Thanks in advance, Fabien

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for submitting this cool story – Trackback from DotNetShoutout

  18. Anonymous says:

    Why on EARTH or in heaven or hell do people install the Acrobat reader? It’s slow, bulky and hideous. Foxit Reader is much much lighter and free and loads in less than a second.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Interesting that two of their top-listed applications are Twitter clients – with the release of blu (WPF app from thirteen23), which stands out in my opinion as the best Twitter client, I wonder what will happen there?

    Our major pain points with Flash/Air have been resource utilization.  I follow a number of notables on Twitter who complain of similar things.  In fact, it might be more apparent on Twitter because of the predominance of Twirl/Tweetdeck.

  20. drbakerusa says:

    I’m a Microsoft fan and developer so I’m not making this comment to put Siverlight down, but I would just like to point something out. You mentioned that AIR is so popular because it is bundled with Acrobat Reader, but Silverlight is pushed through Windows Update. Granted you can opt out of the install, but doesn’t that skew the numbers in a similar way that Adobe’s bundling does?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Dr. Baker – I don’t think Silverlight is pushed via Windows Update, but maybe Tim can clarify.  It looks to me like it’s offered as an optional install (i.e. you have to go to the applet and actually select it from the Optional list) for *Microsoft Update*, which is the same channel where Office updates and such are pushed out.

  22. Anonymous says:

    now, i hang around on c9, im a .net fanboy and i love silverlgiht 🙂

    but you gotta agree that its in your interest to promote silverlight over flash and it would be strange if you werent biased towards silverlight 🙂 after all, SL is pushed in through windows update right? (really im asking, i think it is that way but im not sure) if it is, thats no less inflating to installbase numbers as the flash bundle 🙂

    now dont get me wrong, i WANT SL to be ubiquitous, but im just comparing the comments from both the camps 🙂

    even so, i think silverlgiht i a far better platform than flash, its faster, more flexible, language independent, fairly open specced and has a far superior achitecture 🙂

    what i guess im trying to say, try not to stoop to their level 🙂 i dont think you do in this post but its a slippery slope 🙂 just keep presenting independently gatherd statistics and promote the platforms strengths, there are plenty of them 🙂

  23. Anonymous says:

    As someone wanting to develop rich internet content I have recently been comparing Flash and Silverlight, and I have to say Silverlight ticks so many boxes – Flash is very expensive and requires learning new programming languages, whereas I have quickly got to grips with my first Silverlight application, in which I can easily re-use my .NET experience.

    However, from my perspective the adoption of Silverlight has been severely hampered by its non-support of older CPUs lacking the SSE instruction set. There are a huge number of users that are running PCs too old to even install Silverlight, even with Windows XP as their OS, and what website would be entirely comfortable excluding so many of their potential users?

    If it wasn’t for this it would be a no brainer, but for the time being, Flash still has the ability to run on far more platforms than Silverlight, which is stifling its adoption somewhat.

  24. Anonymous says:

    In This issue: Jim Lynn, Pencho Popadiyn, Tim Heuer, Scott Guthrie, Mike Snow, Maurice de Beijer, and

  25. Anonymous says:

    Some interesting discussion going on here.

    I have to agree that the comment on Adobe packing AIR with Acrobat Reader is somewhat off. Like Microsoft will not pack Silverlight 2 in Windows 7?

    As for the comments on only talking about consumer applications, this is for two main reasons.

    A: Flash has no real potential when it comes to building an enterprise application, so no use in comparing on that front.

    B: Information about this is usualy restricted to the company that builds the solution.

    I can say that the company I work for is using Silverlight 2 for their new UI on an enterprise application.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I just found a link to this article… I didn’t know Microsoft was still working on Silverlight! I remember when it came out a couple years ago, but I just assumed everyone was working on SongSmith now?

  27. Tanveer Badar says:

    Each to their own tools. The question I want to ask is, shouldn’t it be PR’s job to clarify the matter? Why this blog in particular?

  28. Anonymous says:

    The way to Adobe’s heart Web bling tone Adobe Systems’ chief financial officer Mark Garrett has said Silverlight is fizzling. Microsoft’s director of client platform evangelism Tim Sneath has said it’s fizzing. So the RIA war continues.…

  29. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had the same question asked a few times recently about the rate of Silverlight adoption so I thought

  30. Anonymous says:

    There has been lot’s of buzz those days around Silverlight adoption and RIA plug-in deployments. While

  31. Anonymous says:

    There has been lot’s of buzz those days around Silverlight adoption and RIA plug-in deployments. While

  32. Anonymous says:

    As the CEO of a company that creates RIA’s I am keeping a very close eye on the RIA market. Because of its maturity as a platform, we have been using Flex/Air for development. However, we are waiting to see what Silverlight 3.0 will bring to the table. No doubt, version 3, the gap is definitely narrowed, however I don’t see Adobe sitting still either with Flex 4.0 in beta.

    My customers really only care about having a business problem solved, not which tool we use to solve it. Since the platform choice has fallen to me, I have to look at which platform is the most economical. A huge part of the economics is the ability to purchase third-party controls so we don’t spend precious development time creating common UI elements. I think this will be an area where Silverlight will really beat Flex, as currently all the major control venders are in the process of releasing Silverlight controls. On the other hand, there are almost no third party Flex controls.

    One thing is for sure, neither of them are going away anytime soon.


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