Silverlight Comments Inflame Developers

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Is it the fault of Microsoft, the tech press, or some overly sensitive developers? Whichever the case, this Halloween weekend had a few extra scares for some Microsoft employees.

The brouhaha started on Friday, when a ZDNet journalist found that Silverlight was getting scant attention at Microsoft's Professional Developer's Conference, while HTML5 was a stronger topic. The journalist, Mary Jo Foley, interviewed Bob Muglia, Microsoft's president of the servers and tools division at Microsoft.

"Our strategy has shifted," Muglia told ZDNet, explaining that Silverlight would be used for the Windows Phone and media, and that there would be another version of Silverlight, but that "HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything, including (Apple's) iOS platform."

Although the article said Microsoft intended for the two technologies to coexist, Muglia's comments were repeated in a GigaOm article later that day with the enflaming headline "Microsoft Giving Up On Silverlight, Joining HTML5 Party."

While the headline and the comment-baiting article certainly raised some eyebrows with the suggestion that Microsoft has aligned itself with Apple, they didn't jibe with Muglia's original comments.

After that attention, Microsoft apparently decided to get its own story out in its own words. Monday afternoon Bob Muglia released a long blog post in which he apologized for the "controversy and confusion" that followed his comments. He then described at length Microsoft's vision of Silverlight and HTML5 coexisting to bring the best experience to the largest number of viewers.

While some found his message comforting, many didn't. In the scores of comments that followed the blog post, Silverlight developers complained of being turned aside and abandoned by Microsoft. Late in the day, Brian Goldfarb, Microsoft's director of developer platforms, wrote in with a statement of unequivocal support for Silverlight. Still, the angry comments continued.

Microsoft has done much to woo developers to the Silverlight platform, but that effort has been done a great harm by the combination of a careless comment and a sensationalist press. Can Microsoft invest in both technologies without slighting either? Of course it can. And yet it could take the company months or years to erase the perception that it has given up on Silverlight.

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