I’m not a big fan of Flash, and I’m not a big fan of anything by Microsoft.
So why is it a good thing that Microsoft is launching a competitor product to Adobe’s Flash media application? Competition is a good thing.
Adobe’s Flash environment, fresh from the recent purchase of Macromedia, is the defacto standard in online rich media development.
Nearly every browser on every viable computing platform for the masses has a Flash plugin which makes the media moments magical with movement.
So, what does Microsoft do when a market segment has a clear leader and a near if not defacto monopoly? They launch their own version, in this case a challenge to Adobe’s Flash.
Microsoft’s cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in and platform is called Silverlight. Get it? Flash? Silver? Flash. Silver light? Silverlight. The Redmonidans have no class when it comes to copying what belongs to someone else.
Regardless, Silverlight is likely to be a decent success in the market place, if anything, because it’ll eventually show up on every desktop of about 85% of all PCs in the world.
From what we can tell of Microsoft’s announcement and available tools, Silverlight will run on Windows and Macs. For PCs, Windows XP Service Pack 2, Internet Explorer, and various flavors of Firefox.
For Mac users, either a PPC or Intel Mac, various flavors of Firefox and Safari. That covers about 98-percent of all PCs and browser usage these days.
What does Silverlight do? What does Flash do? Pretty much the same thing. It’s a platform to author media and interactive applications for the web. These would include video, audio, animation, blah, blah, blah…
In other words, competition for Adobe’s Flash monopoly. Microsoft is highlighting the fact that users will get a consistent experience on Mac or Windows, though the tools to create Silverlight media are decidedly Windows only.
In other words, to create Flash media, you can do so on Macs and Windows PCs using Adobe’s Flash. For Silverlight, it’s a Windows only proposition, though the output plays nice nice on Macs, too.
Adobe’s Flash is sufficiently capable, sufficiently embedded in the marketplace, and sufficiently ubiquitous that they’re not likely to lose quickly to Microsoft’s Silverlight. If anything, effective competition might get Adobe to soften prices, enhance features, and do those things that competition does in other product markets.
On the other hand, it could be argued that this does not bode well for the Mac and Mac users. Assume that Silverlight provides capabilities and features beyond that of Adobe’s Flash, begins to sell well, and take substantial market share from Flash?
Adobe could retaliate by cutting costs, and the end result of that could be a loss of the Flash development package for Macs. I think that unlikely, given the Mac’s growing market share, however…
In the end, good competition should create a market environment which stimulates rather than stagnates, which has been Adobe’s modus operandi for years. If Apple can stick it to Microsoft by building a better product to attract more customers, why can’t Microsoft copy the same tactic and do the same to Adobe?