Silverlight Success: Riding on Apple or Google?

Posted by Michael Pinto on Mar 20, 2010 in Tech |

Silverlight: Will it run on Apple or Android?

In the wake of the Flash is doomed movement I’ve noticed quite a few Microsoft developers who are rooting for Silverlight. Silverlight has two amazing advantages going for it: Firstly Microsoft loves their developers more so than any other company that I’ve ever seen — and then add to that it will become a key tool for making apps for Windows mobile devices. But there’s one major catch to this which is that smart mobile is now dominated by Apple and Google, and that there’s a good chance that they won’t let Silverlight onto their platform.

At first I’d be tempted to say that you’d think that Google would be open to letting Silverlight run on Android — after all they’ve been very good about letting Flash play well with what they’re doing. However I suspect that they’re really doing that to deflect Microsoft which doesn’t bode well for Silverlight. Microsoft has started do wake up to the fact that their real competition is Google, my shock and awe moment when I realized this was when Steve Ballmer announced that Microsoft was in fact a cloud computing company.

Steve Job cements Apple as a mobile company

Earlier this year when Jobs announced the iPad he made a similar ground changing statement, that Apple was now really a mobile company. Think about it for a minute: Both Apple and Microsoft are the poster children for the personal computer revolution that occurred in the 70s which has dominated the market for the last thirty years. So here you have both companies in the year 2010 walking away from the revolution that they help create which challenged giants of the pervious era like IBM and DEC.

But I’d say that the new Apple or Microsoft in this new world is in fact Google. Google is the operating system of the world wide web — and in that way they remind me of what Microsoft and IBM use to be back in the day. The way that I see it Google is an actual monopoly: If you don’t believe this just think what would happen to any company that would be delisted from their search results. In fact even the phrase that “Google will do no evil” feels like it’s lifted from AT&T from that golden age of telephony where they went out of their way for decades to avoid being broken up.

Google is a Monopoly

When you see Google as a monopoly you start to realize that Microsoft could be at a disadvantage. The one thing going for Microsoft is that if Google doesn’t allow Silverlight to run they’ll look evil. However there are other ways of saying no — for example owning their platform Google can put quite a few barriers in the way that might tax any potential success. In fact if you think about it the fact that Flash runs on the platform is already the first tax that Microsoft would face.

Another possibility is that Microsoft may do a deal with Apple. Least we forget Steve Jobs owes Bill gates big time for helping him rescue Apple when he came back. Back when everyone was writing off the Macintosh it was Gates who pushed a badly needed refresh for Microsoft Office onto the Mac. That vote of confidence may have been one of the things that rescued Apple in the late 90s.

Above: Steve Jobs talking about meaningful partners — Microsoft.

But at the end of the day it comes down to the same thing for Silverlight: Unless Microsoft can get onto a second platform in the mobile space there will be limited appeal for new mobile developers to play with Silverlight. In fact the ideal goal of any developer in that market would be to have an easy to use programming language which would allow you to port you app to all three platforms. If Microsoft can position their tools to do that they’ll have a real winner, but to do that they need a second platform.

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