bbc.co.uk Navigation

Darren Waters

Nokia shines a Silverlight

  • Darren Waters
  • 4 Mar 08, 10:53 GMT

The next stage in the evolution of the mobile web has become clearer after the announcement that Nokia is going to use Microsoft's Silverlight on its handsets.

Nokia handsetSilverlight has been dubbed a "flash killer" and while that's an ambitious claim it also underestimates Microsoft's own plans for the product, which it hopes will become the default platform for the next generation of rich web applications.

We're going to hear a lot more about Silverlight in the coming week at Mix 08 in Las Vegas, including some new applications for the platform.

But this first announcement is a powerful message to the internet industry. Because Nokia's phones, and specifically those running the S60 operating system, have a dominant place in the market, with more than 53% of the market share.

It means that Silverlight could well become the standard platform for web development on a phone and that in turn could have a knock on effect on the PC because smartphone sales will overtake laptop sales any day now.

And interestingly it also means that the distinction between the web and the mobile web could soon be at an end - because one of the aims of Silverlight is the creation of rich web applications that are totally independent of browser, operating system and physical hardware.

It could mean that the latest cool web 2.0 application that you've been playing with on your Mac or PC will run just as well on your mobile phone.

The meaty sub-plot to this is what this all means for Adobe's Air, its next generation web application platform.

Adobe has already signed up some big players to Air, such as eBay, but the mobile dimension is a big one.

So this feels like a good round for Silverlight, without actually being a knockout blow.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 12:22 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Jon Poste wrote:

Come on Nokia, do we really need any more chances for Microsoft to come in and try to get market dominance with an unfinished product?

If this happens then its back to Sony for me.

Microsoft - Jack of all trades, master of none.

Largely thanks to the N95. I've actually started to use online features etc and it really has revolutionised the way I work (I own a media company)

Just as important as this new technology has been flat-rate internet access which has opened up the whole world of mobile internet and finally accelerated the development of rich platforms such as those found in today's handsets.

I think that this advancement will continue now, unabated and quicker than ever but lets not forget that it isn't just down to R&D departments worldwide, it's also due to a change in mentality about how companies earn money from us while we're accessing the internet on the move.

  • 3.
  • At 12:27 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • towny wrote:

All very interesting, although let's not forget this is all really about Microsoft trying to sell more servers. Will the touted advantages of Silverlight be so great as to persuade many to invest in new, expensive and different hardware? Possibly, I suppose, if Nokia is exclusively using Silverlight on its new phones. But will it, or will Silverlight be there alongside Flash? Without a compelling reason for developers to switch - such as exclusivity - I can't see any great Flash-killing revolution taking place.

  • 4.
  • At 12:42 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Ed wrote:

I can't see how it means that the 'latest cool web 2.0 applications' will run on your mobile phone, considering none of them use Silverlight... People are not going to suddenly make Silverlight apps...

  • 5.
  • At 12:51 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Neil wrote:

Adobe have failed to take the mobile and Linux platforms seriously, often not releasing their current version of Flash on Linux until months, even years, after the Windows version. And Flash on mobile platforms is virtually non-existent - Flash Lite is a poor substitute for the real thing, and to make matters worse Flash Lite is again updated very infrequently.

Nokia are obviously big in the mobile space, and with their Nokia Internet Tablets (770, N800 and N810) they are also beginning to make a play in the Linux Mobile general computing space so it seems obvious that Nokia would be keen to break the yoke that Adobe represents and I'm sure Nokia were successful in extracting multi-platform support from Microsoft (perhaps even Linux, although an open source version is already available) in order to bolster early take up of their new Silverlight platform.

Adobe have had numerous chances during the past few years to get their software on to the platforms that mattered, but their inability or unwillingness to support these platforms - including lack of any realistic open source Flash - may ultimately lead to their downfall. Too bad - they had their chance, and blew it. AIR may be be successful, but I suspect Adobe have dragged their feet for too long and have annoyed major corporates such as Nokia who want to seek better - or cheaper - alternatives. At the very least it should create competition for Adobe as their monopoly through Flash has proven to be very unhealthy for the web in general.

As a Flash developer I hope that Silverlight does not succeed.

I try to avoid using any Microsoft software if possible due to past experiences of instability and poor, inconsistent, interface design.

I think that Flash Lite has never been able to keep up with current Flash player versions due to the restrictions of Mobile phones ( the first time I had Flash on one of my mobiles was my Nokia 6600 - 3 mobiles ago )

Lets see what the Flash Player is like on the iPhone ( I am sure that Silverlight will never make it there )

There are many Flash developers who have invested 5+ years learning Flash, so I would have thought that it would always be easier for a Flash team to be assembled than a Silverlight team.

Also the comment, "It could mean that the latest cool web 2.0 application that you've been playing with on your Mac or PC will run just as well on your mobile phone." seems to suggest that maybe we have been already using Silverlight applications!

Ed, When I wrote "latest" I should have said "future" ie Web apps using Silverlight for animation/gfx/media etc.

  • 8.
  • At 02:11 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Kevinjohn Gallagher wrote:

This is actually great news for us the consumer. Flash has too long been unchallenged in it's monopoly, and it's become lazy and stale.

It's lack of proper Linux and Mobile support is truly awful, and indeed has been vilified by many of the Flash community in the past year. Indeed, my learned colleague Aral Balkin (who regularly talks for Adobe/Macromedia around the world), laid into them on this very subject at the launch of AIR.

As we've seen with Microsoft, monopolies are a bad thing. Competition is good, and hopefully it'll wake Adobe/Macromedia up a little to start focusing on the end users of the products and not the designers that build the product.

  • 9.
  • At 02:22 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

I think this is great news. As a developer myself, I recently started to investigate SilverLight & Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). What I found was a framework that is extremely impressive and astonishingly flexible. You now have the opportunity of developing on the deskop, browser and now on the mobile. All using the same language (e.g C#), the same GUI framework, the same application framework etc..

Java was supposed to do all of this (and indeed it has its niches), but it just never took off on the desktop. With Silverlight all of this is going to change. By signing up Nokia, Microsoft are giving us [developers] a standard platform where we can build our applications on.

I as a developer now only need to learn one platform (Silverlight) and I can now deploy my applications on the desktop, browser and now on my mobile device. AWESOME!!

  • 10.
  • At 02:40 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • brudinie wrote:

Silverlight will never provide Web 2.0 content that runs cross browser, cross platform - ever. Microsoft have no commitment to developing silverlight for linux and it has been left to the open-source community to do this. An open-source version of silverlight (moonlight) is unlikely to render content in exactly the same way as the proprietary Microsoft silerlight where as Flash is truly available across browsers and platforms. Microsoft Internet Explorer has a track history of poor W3 standards support for CSS/XHTML and IE also includes proprietary mark up which is not cross browser compatible. So with their track history of failing to promote cross browser, cross platform web apps can we really think that sliverlight is going to achieve anything? Nope. I'm a web developer and I'm sick of having to accommodate their shoddy software. I can write 100% standards compliant code that works cross platform, cross browser and then right at the end I have to add in work arounds for Internet Explorer- Microsoft are useless.

The caption in this article says that Silverlight is thought of as a Flash killer. Could you please explain why you feel Silverlight presents such a threat to Flash?

  • 12.
  • At 03:55 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Adam wrote:

'It could mean that the latest cool web 2.0 application that you've been playing with on your Mac or PC will run just as well on your mobile phone.'

Because of course Web 2.0 applications only work on Mac or PC. 'Bit disappointed that a BBC Technical Editor has again ignored the rest of the technology market.

Anyway, as a web developer (programmer not designer) I've yet to see any fully working Web 2.0 technology. There is a reason why almost all web design companies still ask for sites to be programmed using without Web 2.0 technologies with accessibility and portability being the main issues.

Adobe have ignored the developing markets significantly but Silverlight will just be another nail in the coffin for those of us that don't use Mac or Windows. There are alternatives of course but it means that many web developers would have to learn how to program properly.

Many of these technologies also only support what is available in places like Europe and the US. My cellphone company in Ecuador can't even accept international SMS yet so there is still a long way to go.

Brudinie, I think you might be under estimating the open source community.
If OpenOffice can succeed, why not OpenSilverlight?

  • 14.
  • At 06:30 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Neil wrote:

Adobe have failed to take the mobile and Linux platforms seriously, often not releasing their current version of Flash on Linux until months, even years, after the Windows version. And Flash on mobile platforms is virtually non-existent - Flash Lite is a poor substitute for the real thing, and to make matters worse Flash Lite is again updated very infrequently.

Nokia are obviously big in the mobile space, and with their Nokia Internet Tablets (770, N800 and N810) they are also beginning to make a play in the Linux Mobile general computing space so it seems obvious that Nokia would be keen to break the yoke that Adobe represents and apparently Nokia be releasing Silverlight on their Linux-based Tablets in addition to S60 mobile phones.

Adobe have had numerous chances during the past few years to get their software on to the platforms that mattered, but their inability or unwillingness to support these platforms - including lack of any realistic open source version of Flash - may ultimately lead to their downfall. Too bad - they had their chance, and blew it. AIR may be be successful, but I suspect Adobe have dragged their feet for too long and have annoyed major corporates such as Nokia who now want better - or at least cheaper - alternatives. At the very least this announcement should create serious competition for Adobe as their monopoly through Flash has proven to be very unhealthy for the web in general.

  • 15.
  • At 06:39 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Mark Anderson wrote:

These people that reckon having a linux compatible runtime is important are deluded. Linux users still make up less than 1% of all desktop users, despite all the zealotry and fanfair they preach. It may be a big thing for these open source types to whinge about, but in reality Johnny public hasn't the slightest care whether stuff he sees on 'the internets' can or can not run on some obscure hacker operating system.

As for silverlight, I've yet to see *any* accomplished examples anywhere -compared to e.g the 100's of sites showcased on 'thefwa' done in flash.

Surely a user of a mobile phone does not care if their applications require Flash or Silverlight - they simply want it to work. Silverlight gives another level of complexity to application and content developers that have to maintain different versions - I run a company that creates multimedia tour guides for mobile phones and we use flash lite for our audio and video - and will need to create Silverlight versions as well - or are both supported on a device? its seems like the old VHS v Betamax battle all over again.

I'm a web developer and I can actually say that I like the idea behind Silverlight, but would NEVER call it a Flash Killer, but something to be used with it.

Silverlight attacks RIA at a completely different angle than Flash does and therefore is not really a competitor.

I've tried my hand at Silverlight but as of yet haven't accomplished anything notable, but when you see what can be done with it, you realise how powerful it can be.

Everyone going on about SL for Linux, Microsoft have already said that they are developing a version for Linux later this year.

I'm going to be watching this as I think Silverlight could prove to be a handy little tool.

  • 18.
  • At 09:21 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • cappie wrote:

Whats more interesting in terms of microsoft trying to pawn of Silverlight on the masses, via Nokia, is the yahoo takeover attempt. If the deal happens, instantaneously, millions will be [i]required[/i] to use silverlight, and that would be the best proving ground for Microsoft's next biggest thing: the online office under the Live brand.

Rory stated its different: I disagree to a large degree, because if I am correct, and silverlight is the foundation for its Office Live products, then its essentially no different from Flash. But microsoft likes to own the whole of anything. Silverlight is just another means of achieving the product lockdown.

Will be interesting to see if they can pull it off.

  • 19.
  • At 09:38 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Neil wrote:

@Mark Anderson

This isn't about the desktop - Linux powers more devices than there are desktops. Mobile devices, many of which will be powered by Linux or Linux derivatives, may well become the future desktop for many users.

The only people who are deluded are those who can't see the Mobile future and think that the current "Desktop PC" is the be all and end all.

  • 20.
  • At 10:20 PM on 04 Mar 2008,
  • Isaac wrote:

The beauty of Silverlight is that there are already tons of developers out there that will be able to do it with very little training - any .NET developer, particular ASP .NET ones, will pick it up very quickly - hence why the "there are lots more existing Flash developers out there" argument isn't really true. The other good bit is that it will effectively remove the reliance on JavaScript which, whilst getting there, doesn't have the same features or support as, say, C#. One last point - someone said that SilverLight will replace all other forms of applications - it won't generally replace Windows desktop applications, and will probably sit hand-in-hand with "classic" ASP .NET in the same way that Flash does today. That's why it's a direct competitor with Flash - it'll be used to provide rich media and interactivity but won't replace HTML etc.

I hate to say this, but don't Web 2.0 apps already work fine on devices such as the iPhone?

Silverlight seem like yet more proprietary lock-in, when what the world is calling out for is more open standards... I predict failure...

Although, Microsoft shouldn't be tarred with the same brush as Windows. Some of their latest developments have been interesting...

Silverlight: Vista for your phone.

  • 23.
  • At 11:17 AM on 05 Mar 2008,
  • oshane wrote:

this is a very interesting idea and i think it will even be a successful one considering the fact mobile phone have been improving over the past years. I remember my first nokia it didn't have any features at all it was boring, and i never thought i would see the day when mobile phones would have improved the way it has. now i have a nokia N95 and its the ultimate gadget. thanks to nokia. you the best. :-)

  • 24.
  • At 05:50 PM on 06 Mar 2008,
  • Alain wrote:

Dear Darren,

A developement environment is just one link in a chain and the adoption by this or that constructor of this or that framework does not solve the issues related to the adoption by the public of new web rich mobile applications. Whichever framework is to be used for rich mobile applications in the future, issues such as power autonomy and the enormous volume of data transferred over networks, remain to be properly addressed.

We would like to make the following observation concerning your very interesting article that underlined, over and above the race between competing mobile companies, the very evident interest of the public for new generation mobile applications.

The 3D City mobile application illustrated in the photo taken at Barcelona – MWC 2008, was neither developed with Flash nor with Silverlight but with our own and patented technology, applied to 3D data buildings, provided by our partner, Computamaps.

A video of this technology can be viewed on our website : http://www.newscape-technology.com/comp.html.

Obviously we would be delighted if Adobe or Microsoft were to adopt our technology but such a situation has not happened yet!

Let me thank you for your blog which is an interesting source of information that helps comprehension of today’s rapidly evolving technologies, and prepares those of tomorrow.

Best regards

Alain

This post is closed to new comments.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

BBC.co.uk