The Silverlight Strategy, this will be a great movie

Posted: September 16, 2008 in General
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The Silverlight Strategy, this will be a great movie

Bill Gates

Have you seen Pirates of Silicon Valley?  I love this movie.  It’s basically a docudrama that was made to show the rivalry that existed between Apple and Microsoft (Micro-Soft at the time).  During the movie you get a glimpse into what transpired in the 80’s and 90’s, that brought us the rise of the personal computer, and created the software development machine that is Microsoft.  It’s a cool movie, although my wife would not agree.

Looking at the landscape today, you see a world that has 98% (90% to 98%, depending on what you read, point being, domination) of the machines that access the Internet Windows (Microsoft) based.

How did this happen?  Was Microsoft first?  Did they have the best platform?  Nay Nay to both.

This all happened before in the land before the web

This story is a story about Silverlight, and how what you are about to see with Silverlight, happened already.

I remember back in the day when Bill Gates and crew were busy working on MS-DOS, and Steve Jobs shows up with his Apple.  Bill Gates was furious that nobody wanted to talk about the PC, and everyone wanted the Apple.  So easy to use, such a nice graphical user interface.  Heck I would have been all over Apple myself!

Picture a Pontiac Sunfire showing up to a party, only to realize its surrounded by beautiful, hand crafted Aston Martins.  Apple looked unbeatable.  Their passion for beautiful operating systems and beautiful machines was unmatched.  How on earth could Microsoft get attention back on them?

Without going to much into history, Bill Gates became obsessed with creating a better graphical user interface.  The significant difference was Bill Gates and crew did not focus on creating just a beautiful experience, they focused on creating an operating system that would allow developers to easily create applications for their platform.  This is a key point.  This mindset literally changed our lives today!

Apple vs. MicrosoftMicrosoft loved what Apple did, and tried to copy it.  They did an ok job, but Vista is no OSX, Bill Gates would even agree.  Apple and Jobs would rant and scream, probably to this day that Microsoft has “No Sense of Style!” (akin to Flash and Adobe posts everywhere slamming Expression Studio and Silverlight), but Microsoft didn’t care because that wasn’t their game.  Heck, they were probably happy at all the attention Apple put on making things beautiful, all the while completely ignoring the bigger issues of software development lifecycles, deployment, architecture, and scalability.

What Microsoft did very well, way better than Apple, was form partnerships with developers, ISV’s, and made it easy for companies to develop software for their operating system through fantastic software development tools.

Developers by the Masses

They made genius innovations like the DLL.  The DLL allowed developers to create tools that could configure themselves dynamically.  They were later extremely smart in looking into the work of Alan Cooper, who would later help Microsoft create Visual Basic, the first GUI form designer and editing tool ever created for Microsoft Windows.  They even allowed, and heavily promoted third party applications to be built to develop Microsoft applications.

Before Visual Basic, it was very hard to create graphical user interface applications.  Some could do it, but it was a very difficult and intense process. You would have to be an expert in a large amount of technologies and programming languages to get things to work just right.

By creating tools for creating windows applications, and creating these tools to work extremely well, Microsoft started drawing large numbers of developers flocking to their development tools.  Why would any developer want to spend time doing things, that with Visual Basic, you could do in a matter of seconds.

Web 2.0 Today

The web has been around forever in tech terms.  But nothing really revolutionary has gone on, besides marketing getting a hold of Asynchronous JavaScript and XML and calling it AJAX.  HTML, CSS, the DOM has been around since forever as far as we web is concerned.  Where is the real revolutionary leap?  I mean, sure, you have a ton of Web 2.0 companies coming online, everyone and their dogs are doing start-ups these days, but it’s hard to get everything to work together.  Things are coined “AJAX” and “Web 2.0”, but really, all these technologies are old!

Nobody has really stepped up to the plate and taken a total dominating stance on the web.  Google is pushing applications to the web to “compete” with Microsoft, but has anyone really tried to compete with them?  Is everyone missing the boat completely?

Why hasn’t Google created development tools to develop “Google” applications?  Why hasn’t Facebook?  Why haven’t any of the so called visionary companies out there created a real viable platform for building web applications?  Some of you are thinking they have.  Nay Nay they definitely have not.  They have all created API’s and very simple Wiki documentation surrounding their API’s. Sure the concept of Mashups, XML standards, Web Services is becoming mainstream, but has anyone really taken the time to BUILD the development tools that are needed to build Web 2.0 applications?  Has anyone taken the time, or the ridiculous amounts of money they have, to build a platform on which future web applications can be built?

Microsoft missed the boat on Web 2.0, and the Web in general, and are currently way behind on the advertising side of things, but they have a plan, believe me, and it’s deeper than people think.  What kills me (and almost makes me laugh), is that they have done it before, and nobody seems to see it coming!

Why Microsoft Will Win, and Dominate the Web

Silverlight

You can bash Microsoft all you want, I personally hate the Zune (But the new version is pretty awesome, so I might have to retract that statement soon), but Visual Studio is by far the most impressive development platform end to end, ever created.

Building a “Web 2.0” application today involves having great designers, php script kiddies, JavaScript guru’s, and mysql database designers and admins working for you.  Everyone is working in different toolset’s, and it’s very hard to get everything to work just right.  Sure you have AJAX, but it’s really just a packaging of scripting technologies, that work fairly slow and clunky in comparison to standard windows applications.

Enter Microsoft.  With the introduction of Silverlight, they are bringing over 20 years of experience building visual, interactive business and shrink wrapped applications, to the web.  That is amazingly powerful.  You simply can’t discount this. It’s so powerful in fact that speaking with Flex developers recently, they even drooled at the things they could conceivably do with a .net/Flash interactive package.  I mean, have you tried building really rich data driven, interactive, cross domain, scalable applications in Flash/Flex?  It’s horrid, if not next to impossible.

Is Silverlight a Flash killer?  No.  Is it intended to be?  Nope.  It’s much more than that.  Will you still see flash animations on sites? Absolutely.  But, will you see real applications on the web, built in “AJAX”/Flash?  Nope, they will be built using Silverlight.  Dare I say, you might someday see Flash running on top of Silverlight!  Why not?

It’s like Chess really…

Check Mate

And now, maybe you start to get it.  Roy Ozzie gets it, Steve Ballmer gets it, and Bill Gates is retiring and not even worried about it.  He’s onto bigger more important things. Like in chess, the other side played its game, which I would equate to repetitive wins using Scholars Mate. Everyone else looked at how easy it was to execute the scholars mate, and just copied it.  Microsoft has a deep playbook, and they are ready to launch their attack, and its not just a one or two piece play, it’s the entire board. Trust me when I say with conviction that Microsoft has an army of .net developers ready to execute one of the most awesome plays you have ever seen, and it ends with developers everywhere winning.  As a consequence, Microsoft wins.  The problem with playing a scholars mate, is you are left in such a bad situation, that the end game is not just a win by the other side (Microsoft), but a clear destruction of the opponent, to the tone of 98% market share…

The bottom line is simple.

If you want to win in software, make it easy for people to build applications for your product by:

a) providing a platform on which fantastic applications can be built.

b) provide the best development toolset’s you can for your platform.

This is what Microsoft did with Visual Basic for the windows platform, and are now about to do with the Web.

And nobody is going to see it coming.

People within Microsoft, like Scott Guthrie and John Bristowe see it coming, but mostly everyone else is in denial.  I’m looking forward to renting Pirates of Silicon Valley 2.0 – Silverlight.

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