Every cloud to have a Silverlight lining?
Nokia today announced plans to put Silverlight – Microsoft’s so-called “Flash-killer” – onto its S60 Symbian OS-powered smartphones, as well as Series 40 devices and its range of Linux-based Internet tablets.
Securing Nokia’s support marks a major coup for Microsoft. Having already committed to developing a version of Silverlight for all three major desktop Operating Systems (Windows, Mac OS and Linux), gaining access to Nokia’s millions of mobile users brings Microsoft one step closer to fulfilling the promise of a Rich Internet Application (RIA) framework with genuine ‘write once, run anywhere’ capabilities — the holy grail of software development.
Adobe, of course, is persuing a similar goal with its own RIA platform, Adobe Air, and – claiming 98% penetration for its Flash plug-in – the company already holds a dominant position on the desktop Web. However, whether or not Adobe can leverage its desktop presence to become as powerful a player on the Mobile Web is yet-to-be seen.
A version of Flash for mobile phones – Flash Lite – does already exist, but it wasn’t until the recent update to version 3 that support for Flash Video was added, and even then, handsets powerful enough to run Flash Lite 3 aren’t expected to become commonplace until next year. (Although, Nokia’s N96 flagship handset is one of the first to do so.) Likewise, while Microsoft will demonstrate Silverlight running on an S60 device at tomorrow’s MIX08 conference in Las Vegas, the Silverlight developers’ kit for S60 won’t be available until “later this year”, with the availability of versions for S40 and Nokia Internet Tablets to be “confirmed later”.
While Microsoft and Adobe will be keen to secure widespread adoption for their respective RIA technologies on Symbian OS-powered and other Nokia devices, let’s not forget other major platforms from RIM, Apple and Google.
Apple has yet to add support for Flash on the iPhone, and is even less likely to partner with Microsoft by supporting Silverlight. Instead, third-party developers will be encouraged to build Internet-aware applications that go beyond the limits of the browser by utilizing the iPhone’s soon-to-be-released SDK. Think of the iPhone’s version of Google Maps as an example or its native YouTube client.
In contrast, Google’s mobile OS Android is likely to support all manner of RIA development – due to its open-source underpinnings – including Silverlight and Flash, as well as through existing support for Java. And just today, Google announced a mobile version of its Google Gears technology that will enable off-line access to browser-based applications running on a mobile phone.