Comparison of Microsoft Silverlight 2 and Adobe Flex by an Adobe Evangelist

I've found a nice read on a comparison between Microsoft's Silverlight and Adobe Flex by an Adobe Evangelist who took a 3 day Silverlight 2 training.

The weblog post starts of with summarizing the good and bad things of Silverlight but it's also nice to read the comments where a big discussion starts between Microsoft employees, Adobe employees and other developers/designers that have to choose between these 2 technologies.

Things he likes about Silverlight:

  • “The first thing I really like is the concept of threading. Being able to spawn off complex tasks without choking the main thread is pretty cool. You could, for example, show a really smooth animation when you are loading a bunch of data in a separate thread.”
  • “A Silverlight application can directly communicate with the HTML document it is hosted on by simply setting a parameter.”
  • “Being able to code in either C# or VB.NET is also a great feature. Especially since these two languages are pretty familiar to people developing for the Windows platform. I’m not one of them, but I found that C# is similar to ActionScript. Next to those languages you also have XAML, which does more or less the same things as MXML.”

    after that he tells us the things he doesn't like about Silverlight:

  • Code in XAML and C# is really verbose.”
  • “Styling controls is an absolute nightmare! I honestly think that this is going to be Silverlight’s Achilles’ heel!”
  • “Another thing that I really couldn’t grasp is the lack of HTML tag support in text fields.”
  • “I know the Expression tools are still in beta, but it has to be said that all the tools (including Visual Studio, which is no longer in beta) felt extremely buggy and incomplete.”
  • “Over these three days, I got a strong feeling that Silverlight was created by people who don’t know anything about designers.”

    In my opinion Silverlight and Adobe Air/Flex can both be big and good in their own things and eventually they will start growing towards each other as .Net and Java are also doing. Adobe has its huge designers userbase while Microsoft has a very big developers userbase. I think Adobe will stay the best thing to use for really nice fancy looking webtools while Silverlight will focus itself on the real rich internet Applications instead of websites which will stay the big focus of Adobe.

    I do agree with him that styling can be pretty hard for designers which aren't used to set all those properties and maybe Silverlight is a bit TOO extensible for them. As an example he shows how to change the rotation of an object in Silverlight and Flex:

    Microsoft Silverlight Adobe Flex

    <RotateTransform Angle="45"/>

    <Button rotation="45"/>

    I can see a designer will like the simple rotation property but Microsoft gives us (developers) the option to do all kinds of transformation on the object which is more extensible then the way it's done in Flex.

    About the point where he is complaining about how buggy everything is, I think this changed in a good way from Silverlight 2 Beta 1 to Beta 2 and I'm sure that everything will be really stable at the final release. (of course Visual studio isn't in beta… but the Silverlight developer tools are so that's why Visual studio isn't always that stable while building Silverlight applications at the moment)

    I do think Microsoft will have a hard time to get designers to change to Silverlight from their loved environment which they already know but only time will tell.

    Geert van der Cruijsen

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