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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Running on Multiple Platforms

One important factor when you develop a third-party web technology is to run it on as many platforms as possible. The Web is, by definition, ubiquitous, and it is not rare to find Internet-enabled devices of every shape and power. Adobe Flash is a good example of this: The plug-in is available for a great number of browsers on a great number of operating systems. This makes Flash a powerful platform, and Microsoft understands the need for Silverlight to run in multiple browsers too.

As said earlier, at the time of this writing, the Silverlight runtime is available for Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows, and for Firefox and Safari on Macintosh. A version for Linux is in preparation. The real challenge is to offer consistent interfaces on all the platforms on which Silverlight runs. So far, this goal has been very successful, and is a great achievement in the quest for a unified web environment.

Some prototypes of Silverlight for smartphones have also been presented, but not much is known about what will be supported on these limited devices. A first version of Silverlight for mobile phone (running on Windows Mobile and also on Nokia mobile phones) should be released by the end of 2008. This should support Silverlight 1 applications, including video.

Because Silverlight runs on so many platforms, some limitations in the functionality (compared to the full .NET platform) are unavoidable. Many factors must be considered:

  • The goal is to keep the runtime small, so that it can easily be installed over Internet connections. The goal in the foreseeable future is to keep it under (or equal to) 5MB. When you compare to the size of the full .NET runtime (and even if you remove all the server-side bits), it’s obvious that not everything can be implemented.
  • Features requiring a lot of hardware acceleration (especially 3D animations) will probably be too hard to implement consistently on multiple platforms (not even mentioning small limited mobile devices).
  • Various platforms use various underlying graphic technologies, and some of these technologies may not allow all the desired effects. It’s already pretty amazing to see how consistent the implementation is on both Windows and Macintosh. For Silverlight to be viable, it is imperative that it remain totally compatible on all supported platforms and browsers.

All these reasons create a lot of intense discussions to decide what will make it to Silverlight and what won’t. It will be interesting to observe the development of the platform!

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