Thursday, 4 November 2010

Silverlight in the News

Silverlight made it onto the BBC News on Tuesday – Coders decry Silverlight change. Take an unfortunate choice of words by a senior executive or two; add the reactive and ill-informed commentators on some web message boards; then mix in some natural concerns from developers. Bang! Tempests in teacups, the media love them.

Personally speaking, I find it reassuring to observe that the amateur tradition is alive and well in Microsoft and at least one major multinational company is not self-wrapped in a cloak of PR and spin-doctoring. That being said, the last few minutes of Doctor Who The Christmas Invasion ought to be made compulsory viewing for all senior executives.

As a developer I'm happy so long as .Net is treated as a strategic family of products. Thanks to Novell it may become so on Unix/Linux too (even if the Linux ‘community’ is slow to recognize what the third wave of Unix is really about). Hey theres another tabloid headline: C/C++ is dead!

I hope I'm not alone in being pleased to learn Silverlight 5 is not being rushed out. Especially if it means some of the niggles are resolved and the SL/WP7/WPF portability model improved. And Unicode 6.0 of course! A Mix 2011 Beta with Summer release please.

Two real news stories for developers:

An interesting talk at PDC 2010 for C# developers: ‘The Future of C# and Visual Basic’ by Anders Hejlsberg – don’t be put off like I almost was by the Visual Basic tag, it is hardly mentioned so we are not subjected yet again to the irony implicit in the keyword Dim. The main theme is simplification of Asynch programming with the new await keyword for the next .Net revision. Along with parallel constructs, this pattern brings very useful ways of exploiting multi-core processors to .Net in a clean software design. The talk is summarised here.

Developers in the .Net/WPF/Silverlight space should also check out PDC 2010: 3-Screen Coding: Sharing code between Windows Phone, Silverlight, and .NET by Shawn Burke. I alluded to the value of portable code last month in Of Characters and Strings although I didn’t highlight the .Net 4 changes that enable sharing of binary assemblies (a topic in its own right). The new tooling for Visual Studio to assist in creating Portable Assemblies, as previewed by Shawn, should be very helpful in managing the shared assembly model. It should also help focus Microsoft development on removing some of the irritating incompatibilities between Silverlight and WPF.

I just can’t wait for await.

Bob Richmond

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