//Build/ keynote: the future of LightSwitch: Silverlight or HTML5?

I just got home from Antwerp, where I watched the //build/ keynote together with some other developers.  Courtesy of Azug, the Belgian Azure User Group (thanks, Maarten Balliauw for organizing and Centric for hosting!)


For those of you that don’t know, //build/ is Microsoft’s annual five day event for developers. Traditionally, during the keynote, Microsoft Senior developers get a chance to explain Microsoft’s vision, their roadmap and guidelines for the following year(s).  This year, more than ever, the expectation was high.  We already know major parts of Windows 8 have been developed in HTML5, does this mean they have turned their back on the ever so loyal XAML community?  Would Microsoft finally break silence and take a stand on the Silverlight vs HTML5 war?

Thankfully, they did.  The biggest surprise, however, is that they didn’t pick side.  Well, they picked both sides… Well…  All sides.

World, meet Windows 8.  W8, meet world.

If you hurry up, you can download the Windows 8 Developers preview tonight (in 3 hours at the time of writing), and this could be your new desktop.

My first impression?  Comparing the user interface experience of windows 95 to windows 7, not that much has fundamentally changed.  Not as much as the difference between W7 and W8.  Microsoft decided to boldly take a whole new direction.  Everything’s connected and available at the touch of your finger.  Microsofts W8 vision, in my opinion: “It’s all one”.

Desktop vs touchpad?

Doesn’t matter.  It’s all one.  Windows 8 is fully touchscreen enabled.  Multi touch even.  You can use a desktop with mouse, desktop with touchscreen, touchpad, or even their new “armpad”.  And although nothing was announced, I’ll be happy to make a bet that Windows Phone will “soon” be running the exact same operating system.

Silverlight or HTML5?

Doesn’t matter.  It’s all one.  Have a look at all those tiles in that W8 desktop.  They are all applications.  Whether you like HTML5 + JavaScript, C# + XAML, or even C or C++, just open the one development tool: Visual Studio, and start developing!  Would you like to spend some extra attention to the user interface experience?  Fire up the one designing tool: Blend, and start designing!  (Yes that’s right, Blend5 will support designing HTML5 + Javascript!).   The best part is, that Microsoft developed WinRT, a framework, accessible from all three categories (JS, C# & C/C++)!  Wait, one framework for all?  Yep, it’s all one!



DVD or ClickOnce?

Neither.  Once you are done developing your application, just build it into a W8 application and send it to the brand new (W8) AppStore!  One place to look for apps, one place to install from, one place to distrubute your application to 400+million Windows users.

Desktop or web application?

Stop thinking about “desktop” or “web” applications.  In the end, whatever your technology of choice, it’s all one: Windows8 applications.  They are all accessible through the tiles that form your W8 desktop, and they are all connected.

It gets even better…

LightSwitch or Facebook?

Does it really matter whether it’s a photo album on Facebook, a subfolder in your “My Pictures” folder on your local harddisk, a folder on your work pc (connected via Windows SkyDrive), or an employee picture in your LightSwitch application?  It shouldn’t.  In the end, you are talking about collections of images.  And when you open a FileDialog in WinRT from your LightSwitch application, to select a picture, that’s exactly what you’ll see. Photo albums.

And that’s how all of those tiles you see on your W8 background, are connected.  It’s all one.  Your albums.

Or vice versa, from another application to yours.  Press WindowsKey+F to search for “Joe”, and the WinRT makes it possible to find a folder on your pc, a contact in your “people”, a picture in your “photo albums”, an mp3 in your music collection, a high score in your Angry Birds game, and an employee in your LightSwitch application.

It’s all connected.  It’s all one.

So… What about the future of LightSwitch? Silverlight or HTML5?

Personally, I’m thrilled about the new direction Microsoft is heading.  As worried as I was about the future of Silverlight, and thus our beloved LightSwitch, I am now excited.  The future of LightSwitch is looking brighter than ever.

Stop thinking in terms of desktop or web apps.  Stop thinking in terms of TouchPad or desktop.  Stop thinking about Silverlight or HTML5.  Stop thinking about FaceBook friends, Outlook Contacts or your LightSwitch applications customers.

Start thinking…
Windows 8.

10 thoughts on “//Build/ keynote: the future of LightSwitch: Silverlight or HTML5?

  1. For those of you that wonder (I did fail to mention): all LightSwitch applications you make today WILL run on W8. W8 is fully backwards compatible with W7 64bit and 32bit applications, including your desktop or in-browser LS apps!

  2. I watched alone as I always. 😦

    But the thought was same as urs. Amazed by Win8 and envying those lucky 5000 guys who already tasting its goodness. 🙂 🙂

    Few thing I noticed (or may be missed) are..

    1. They show the Quicken but didn’t show how any legacy software gonna run.

    2. How appstore ‘update’ will be pushed. I’m an android user. So guess, it might work like Win7 phone app updates.

    3. Is 32/64 bit concept will still exist?

    4. Will there a third party be any appstores?

    5. How LS apps gonna look in Win8?

    6. Can I get a Developer Preview PC? 🙂 🙂

    • Bala! 😀
      1. They did “state” that Win8 is fully backward compatible…
      2. Let’s hope so, an easy process is needed for both devs and end users
      3. Looks like it. My guess is that all Win8 will be 64bit, but backwards compatible…
      4. Hope not. The concept of “it’s all one” makes it easy. Need an app? => Appstore.
      5. Well we’re going to have to hope that the LS team puts some effort into this and give all Win8 functionality out of the box, perhaps in LS2… If not, we can make a serious community effort and do it ourselves 😀
      6. Sure! They are only $3000 on eBay at the moment… 😦

      Stay tuned!

  3. I am already saving my pennies towards the first shinny Windows 8 Tablet (next spring I hope). Purposely was holding out for a Windows 8 tablet over the IPad. Also was amazed at the thin PC’s they demo’d, pretty darn slick.

    I look forward to leveraging the built office and windows capabilities and look forward to learning Metro, should be a blast!

    On a slightly different note, I just inherited an absolute mess of Access databases that I plan to draw into some form of assemblance within LightSwitch and I am still bound to tie this into PRISM somehow. Jan, if you get a second I want to throw a few ideas around. Shoot me a quick email if you have some time. Cheers.

    • Just bought an aspiron duo, downloaded win8 already, going to install it tonight ‘n let you know how it worked. Personally, I think the aspiron duo + win 8 are a match made in heaven.
      By the way, mail sent, I can’t wait. 🙂

  4. Hello, I think you meant the deployment technology ClicOnce not ClockOnce? otherwise good article.
    Html5 is if you want to do the full web browsers & multi os & Mobile

    Silverlight on multi browser windows (see linux and mac I believe)
    More with silverlight 5, we’ll be able to run games xna (3D).
    A XNA games can be deployed in WP7, XBOX, PC (Windows), Internet (browsers);-)

    I like the Metro interface on my windows phone 7 is truly innovative as navigation.

    • Hey Dauphinus!
      Thanks for the correction, I changed the article (ofcourse ClickOnce was the technology I ment).
      I don’t agree that HTML5 is only to do full web browsers & … If you prefer HTML5 + javascript (for example: you have no .NET experience), you can use it just as well to build specific windows 8 applications.
      Silverlight is becoming more and more jawsdropping, like for example the XNA games you mention, I really hope more and more browsers / platforms will support it in the future (the iPad for example, does not at the time of writing 😦 )!
      Thank you for your feedback and insights on this matter!
      Kind regards


  5. Busy Jan? Its been over three weeks. 😦 I’m visiting ur blog almost once/twice a day just by not believing my email subscription 🙂

    • Always busy, but the second part of 2011 was extreme.
      I will sometimes be “quiet” on my blog, but am always thinking about it!
      Thanks for your comments though, it’s nice to see people enthusiastic about my blog, it really is!

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