PDC 2010: Top 5 Reasons Why Microsoft Completely Screwed up their web strategy with HTML 5
Update 11/1/2010: Officual update from Bob Muglia: http://team.silverlight.net/announcement/pdc-and-silverlight/
This is an article in response to Microsoft's new web strategy that was announced this week at the PDC 2010. In a nutshell, Microsoft is fully embracing HTML 5 and re-purposing Silverlight for rich client development (Windows Phone 7).
Here are my 5 reasons why Microsoft really messed this one up (coming from a perspective of timing, tooling and corporate means of making money):
- HTML 5 is not ready yet...and don't know when it will be
- Internet Explorer 6-8 problem
- No Microsoft HTML 5 Tooling announced
- The CIO/CTO effect
- Silverlight is in limbo...wait til MIX 2011 to find out more
HTML 5 is not ready yet...and don't know when it will be
HTML 5 has become an abstract term already before being released. When someone tells you they implemented a site in HTML 5; what does that mean? Are they just using some HTML 5 tags like Canvas? Have they implemented CSS 3, SVG, Web Workers, WebGL? HTML 5 has several related technologies that are being developed in parallel or as part of the HTML 5 specification. No current browser supports the entire gamut of "HTML 5 and related technologies".
When is HTML 5 being released? HTML 5 is not a true language from a purist perspective. It is a set of standards that are accepted and implemented in web browsers. Here in lies the problem...even if the full HTML 5 spec is done; then all the browsers need to implement it. Finally, all the browsers the billions of people have installed need to be replaced with "full HTML 5 compliant browsers"
I wanted to highlight Google's YouTube as an example. Google is very pervasive with HTML 5 and Ian H. runs the HTML 5 spec essentially. Look at their youtube site and HTML 5 is there, but NOT the default. If HTML 5 was so ready, then why need Flash? Well simply a majority of the browsers don't support it....even Google's current browser version does not. Their WebM standard uses VP8 codec, which is the open source one that everyone fought over in the "HTML 5 codec wars". If you are on IE 6-8 you need to INSTALL Google Frame...lol. Imagine you are an architect, CIO....are you going to write an app in all of HTML 5 now if you need RIA functionality?
Internet Explorer 6-8 problem
Internet Explorer 9 will be Microsoft's first browser to support HTML 5. However, it is in beta and probably won't be released until April 2011. So, did Microsoft just dump Silverlight for a platform they don't support? YES! Even if Internet Explorer 9 was RTM'ed today, over 63% of the world is using Internet Explorer which is NOT HTML 5 compliant! It will literally take years for everyone to get Internet Explorer 9 widely supported. This is not even mentioning older versions of Chrome, Opera or Firefox. I would bet that about 70% of the CURRENT browsers do not support HTML 5 even partially.
No Microsoft HTML 5 Tooling Announced
So what are Microsoft's great new tools to create HTML 5 web sites? Uhhhh.....I don't know. Microsoft was very mum on this. One would think that when you are shifting to HTML 5 you would show something a little more than just Internet Explorer 9 Beta. However, that is exactly what Microsoft did:
- no new Expression Web shown
- no export from Silverlight to HTML 5 (like Adobe has)
- no HTML 5 helpers for ASP.NET MVC announced
In my opinion, this is completely ridiculous. I know no one "owns" HTML 5. However, don't you want developers (that buy your software and OSes) to develop using YOUR software? What is to stop an Adobe Flash or Silverlight developer dropping Windows and Visual Studio 2010 and going on a Mac with open source HTML 5 tools?
The CIO/CTO Effect
Every headline today about the shift in strategy has been HTML 5 wins and Silverlight loses. Imagine what a CIO/CTO will think, when they get their tech info from these "high level technology summary" web sites or periodicals.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out the clear message here in the headlines (even without reading the article). So I would bet if you were deciding on which technology to work on that upcoming project...this shift in strategy might scare senior management away from Silverlight.
Silverlight is in limbo...wait til MIX 2011
So what is going on with Silverlight? When is the next release? Is Microsoft discontinuing Silverlight?
If you have a vested interest in Silverlight, you have to wait 5 months until MIX 2011 (Microsoft's web conference) to find out what is going to happen next. For someone who has invested in this technology, I find it insulting. The problem is that you don't know anything clear. This is very akin to Wall Street..."the market hates not knowing"; they want to know where to invest based on the news. If you don't know where Silverlight is going; how seriously are you going to champion or invest in the technology?
What would you have done?
I listed all the reasons, why I think Microsoft screwed up the web strategy this week. This is what I would have done:
- DELAY the shift in strategy to "re-purpose" Silverlight and declare HTML 5 the winner UNTIL Microsoft had the tooling, Internet Explorer RTM'ed
- (credit to Paul Litwin for this one) How about waiting until Windows Phone 7 matures. Don't you need as many devs creating Windows Phone 7 apps using Silverlight? If people leave Silverlight, then this will drop the pool of devs creating WP7 apps.
- Be very explicit in Silverlight's role on the web, cloud and the client
- Either commit to or scrap Silverlight's future (don't leave it in limbo)
- Show how Microsoft is going to revolutionize HTML 5. Don't be a Steve Jobs sheep and jump on HTML 5.
In summary, Microsoft really fumbled the web strategy this week. What amplifies the fumbling is that they did this AT THE PDC (Professional Developer's Conference). Doing this to developers at "their" conference and not explaining Silverlight's future is totally unacceptable. I think senior management is to blame and wanted to have a "direct message about the web". This should have been done when Microsoft had HTML 5 "ready to go" with tooling and IE 9 was released. Microsoft has a great platform in Silverlight that can compliment the web. However, they are shifting their strategy to a platform that is not ready, don't know when it will become "released" nor do they have their own tools to develop for....HUGE MISTAKE.