Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The future of Silverlight and .NET: Somasegar Wriggles

The questions that keep coming up again and again on my Twitter stream are Where does Windows RT leave .NET? (it seems to duplicate much of the functionality) Is Silverlight dead? or Why is there no mention of WPF? Is it even more dead than Silverlight?

Channel 9 invited questions from its Twitter audience when S. Somasegar , VP of Microsoft Development, attended a live Q&A at this week's Microsoft Build Conference.

There was an embarrassing silence at the start when it seemed there were no questions to ask, so kudos to interviewer Charles who refused to take the seeming censorship seriously and recalled having seen a question on his Twitter feed that wasn't being fed to him. He bravely recalled it:


What is the future of .Net?

It was like watching a party political interview as Soma stretched, prevaricated and dodged his way around the question.

"It's an important segment, moving forward", he answered.

Very nice, Soma, but answer the question.

"At the same time what is the future of software development looking like? A 14 year old wrote the most popular program on iTunes. Many new developers are coming up and they don't think of themselves as professional developers." he went on to say. Erm, what has that to do with the question you've just been asked? He talked more about new young developers, talking around the point rather than addressing it directly. I'm guessing that he was talking his way around the point that new people don't want to learn .NET and they're the new priority, but maybe I'm reading too much into his non-answer?

Fortunately, the audience were not going to let him off that easily. We've all seen that fudgy marketing 'architecture' slide seemingly showing XAML (whatever that really means) with C# and C++ as being on a par with HTML5 and Javascript, but which is the Microsoft-recommended approach for developing new 'Metro Style Applications'?

What's the preferred platform for development on Windows 8?

Hah! Wriggle out of that one Soma. Time to 'fess up!

"You decide." came the helpful reply.


OK. One more try, just for the Silverlight guys...

"What is the future of Silverlight and when will we see the final release of Silverlight 5?"

Bingo! Let's see what he says to that one! Not surprisingly Somasegar decided to address the less controversial question first.

"Hopefully in the next many months when we feel we are done and we have the right quality. "

Well thanks for that Soma. Clear as mud. In 'the next many months' we'll get Silverlight 5 with a 'Go Live' license. When exactly was it that Microsoft spokespeople decided to stop speaking plain and simple English?

As for the future of Silverlight, well again we got some vague misdirection.

"[When we've shipped Silverlight 5] then the team will think 'what next'. In parallel we will release Mango. We want to bring you forward. You might have to make a few changes [to your existing apps to run under Windows 8] as you saw. We want to figure out a way for you to come along on the journey and we don't want to leave you behind."

Now let's be clear here. What we were shown was a Silverlight 2 beginner's tutorial 'ported' to Windows 8 with a few line changes. Not a real app at all.

And Microsoft have frequently talked about how they run two releases in parallel (eg Scott Guthrie revealed in July 2010 that the Silverlight 4 team was ramped up and working as Silverlight 3 team was wrapping up their RTM release), so what's all this waiting until RTM of Silverlight 5 and then thinking about what to do next nonsense?

Utter tosh! Microsoft know full well what they have planned next - they just don't want to go public - perhaps because they're afraid of the backlash?


Things at least looked a little better for those who've nailed their development hats to the WPF mast. The Twitter stream erupted with re-tweets of a rumour message to the effect that ".NET 4.5 has [a] new version of WPF with much faster databinding.". Hoorah! This unofficial story gained credence with an MSDN page detailing What's new in WPF 4.5.

This meant that Soma was on stronger ground when someone asked What is the future of WPF?

".NET 4.5 (Developer Preview) is what we're shipping this week and it's going to contain the next version of WPF. The fact that we're shipping it means we're absolutely committed to supporting it. Blend is a WPF application and we're going to carry on with that moving forward." must at least give some encouragement to those worried that their platform is being left to gather dust whilst the Javascript kiddies take over the world with their 'Angry Birds' -like apps!

Being more serious for a moment, it was clear with today's announcements of ASP.NET MVC 4, and hints of improvements to Entity Framework and WCF that .NET is still very much around, and likely to stay around for some time on the server.

It's the client that's the problem!

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