I’ve been thinking for a while about Silverlight, the new tools+browser plugin+platform stuff from Microsoft. it’s very clearly designed to attack Adobe Flash as the rich media platform on the web (and the desktop). I can’t help but think, though, that they’re fighting the wrong war here.
Flash is very strong; there’s no doubt of that — it’s on something like 95% of the Internet-connected computers in the world — and the success of YouTube & other video sites has really cemented its place on the Web. But it’s not open or standard — it’s owned by one company here on the left coast of the US — not such a different situation than Java was in a decade or so ago. And we all know how how that story played out (when’s the last time you ran a Java applet? Don’t know? Right.)
And so Microsoft looks around at what they’ve got, and their Studio.Net tools are one of their absolute strongest franchises. Combine that with the new religion that they’ve got about services (instead of software), and they start to think they need to build yet another proprietary platform to compete head on with Flash, but leveraging their tool set. They know ubiquity is important, so in their version of “ubiquity” they build for PC & Mac, for IE, Firefox & Safari. Which looks a lot like ubiquitous, but it actually isn’t, and that’s telling.
But here’s the mistake I think they’re making: they’re gunning at Flash alone, with their own proprietary, closed stack — Mix07 hype notwithstanding, they’re not going to get any real help from anyone outside of Redmond.
Then, suddenly, they’re on the side of the web, on the side of a billion Internet users, on the side of everybody who’s not Adobe. But I think they can’t see it because of their history, even with a new guy at the helm.
So now it’s Adobe v Microsoft v the Web. I don’t see how they can really win this one.
[As an aside, I think a ton of stuff that Adobe has done lately shows that they’re thinking much further down this path than Microsoft is, and my hat’s off to them for that.]