By now, you’ve probably read plenty about Microsoft’s new Silverlight platform and how it’s going be a major player in the coming year. While I don’t doubt that Silverlight will be significant, I have a very tough time seeing how MS can overcome the installed base that Adobe has with Flash. And I’m not just talking about the installed base of the Flash player on multiple platforms, but also the installed base of content creation applications from Adobe and the mindshare Adobe has amongst creative professionals.
Microsoft’s real challenge with Silverlight will be in content creation tools arena. Currently, the only content creation tool that is capable of authoring Silverlight content is Microsoft’s own Expression Studio, or a pre-release of Visual Studio.NET. By Comparison, you can author and publish Flash content using several of Adobe’s products as well as many third party applications. Adobe is very well entrenched among the creative crowd. Having worked with many different creative firms over the years, you’d be very hard pressed to to find a interactive shop that did not use an Adobe or Macromedia product. Not to mention, most of these companies were nearly all Mac-based.
So far, I haven’t seen many takers for Expression Studio. The fact that this is a Windows-only product should be seen as a detriment to the Silverlight platform. A hardcore creative professional who uses a Mac is never going to give their Mac up willingly. Second, if they did have to give their Mac’s up and forced to use Expression Studio, Microsoft needs to be able to answer the following questions:
- How do I open my Photoshop files in Expression Studio?
- Do my Photoshop files get imported with all of their layers if I can bring them into Expression?
- Which version of Expression authors video like After Effects?
- Can I import Silverlight files into After Effects as vectors with alpha channels preserved and batch render WMV files with embedded cue points?
MS has a lot more work to do that just releasing a player for both Windows and Mac OS X. They also need content creation tools on the Mac if they want to be a player in the rich media space. It’s very difficult to recommend a rich-media platform that prohibits you from creating content on your platform of choice.
Additionally, Microsoft hasn’t shown creative professionals that Sliverlight is any better than Flash or Flex. So far, Silverlight looks like nothing more than a Flash “me-too” product that can do some 3-D and HD Video. From a developer perspective, it is much more compelling that that. But on the surface, it’s just a Flash rip-off. Here’s a short list of other reasons why the Mac camp won’t adopt Silverlight:
- Internet Explorer
- Windows Media Player
Given Microsoft’s track record of killing decent products for Mac OS, choosing an MS-controlled technology usually means that they’ll kill it somewhere down the road and leave Mac users out in the cold. I think Flash is here to stay.