All entries for Monday 04 February 2008

February 04, 2008

MS/Yahoo deal: Here comes Silverlight?

Writing about web page;898723528;fp;16;fpid;1

The offer by Microsoft to buy Yahoo for $44.6billion has created something of a stir, mainly because it’s the biggest offer of its kind (one that even MS would have to borrow money for with reserves of ‘only’ $22billion or so).

Should the deal go through, it may also have serious implications for Adobe and Flash; The MS rival technology Silverlight is currently being adopted slowly but steadily, but it’s easy to see how Microsoft taking over the second biggest internet company on the planet would present a prime opportunity to push its own platforms more aggressively.

Yahoo recently created its Yahoo Messenger application using Silverlight but currently up until recently made more use of Flash/Flex for other major features, like Yahoo Maps. Last week Yahoo released ASTRA, a set of Yahoo-developed components and libraries and in December gave a new Yahoo Flex skin to the development community, so Flex and Flash development is clearly still alive and kicking at Yahoo. It’s easy to imagine a Microsoft-owned Yahoo adopting Silverlight more extensively in future, increasing the penetration of the platform to the point where it gathers enough momentum to become as important and ubiquitous as Flash Player.

With this in mind, I was interested just now to read this interview with David Stubenvoll, the CEO of Wowza Media Systems. Warwick University recently adopted the Java-based Wowza Media Server as its solution for video and audio streaming, as an alternative to Adobe’s own Flash Media Server. As a provider of a third-party solution to an existing Adobe platform, it would be reasonable to assume Wowza is to a certain extent tied to the Adobe roadmap, but it was interesting to see David’s predictions (made in December) for Silverlight, before the bid was even announced:

Adobe has to assume that Silverlight is going to become ubiquitous…What’s the time frame for that? I’d say nine to eighteen months

That’s much sooner than I would’ve predicted, but a successful bid for Yahoo could be a significant catalyst for Silverlight. With this in mind, it’s reassuring to see that Wowza intends to support the video delivery mechanism required by Silverlight in the future, plus mobile formats;

Wowza plans to add support for Microsoft’s media delivery format to Media Pro Server sometime next year. The upstart company also will build in support for Java Platform Micro Edition, which is the most popular video format on mobile phones.

Which is reassuring, but back to my original question – would the deal accelerate Silverlight’s penetration? Almost definitely I think, although I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, mainly because I haven’t seen Silverlight-based applications do anything significantly better than Flash – it seems to be more about allowing the vast number of .NET developers to create Rich Internet Applications without having to move to the Adobe platform. I don’t think this really affects Flash Player very much anyway; at 83-98% penetration it’s unlikely that people would adopt Silverlight OR Flash; it will simply help drive adoption of Silverlight, at which point the decision on what to use will come down to development preference and features (where different).


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