Silverlight VS Flash - a .NET Developer's Perspective
Posted by Chris Nicol on September 5, 2008 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (234)

I wanted to take a look at Silverlight VS Flash, but this comparison has been done a million times ("Silverlight VS Flash" yields 205,000 results in google), so I wanted to look at it from the project manager side of things and why they should choose one over the other. Neither technology is monstrously better than the other so picking the technology really depends on your needs, your resources and what you want to accomplish. Hopefully this post will provide you with more perspective in making that decision.

Silverlight & .NET Framework:

The first and in my opinion the most appealing thing about Silverlight is its leverage of the .NET Framework. There's some hurdles to get over when first venturing into the world of Silverlight, but for any seasoned .NET developer it feels just like home.
Any .NET Developer, whether windows or web based, can jump right into coding a Silverlight app with ease. What does this mean for your project? You can now take any .NET developer from your resource pool and expect results within a week or so of them first delving into Silverlight.

IDE & Workflow:

There's no question that Flex Builder is a huge improvement on the old Flash IDE, but I don't think any developer that's used both Flex and Visual Studio 2008 would deny that they are miles apart. Visual Studio is a full blown and rich development environment, coupled with addons like ReSharper, CodeSmith, NUnit and so so much more, VS is on a whole different level.
Once you leverage common tools and practises within the .NET framework with your Silverlight app, you suddenly have the same core development structure as you can have for your windows apps. Unit testing, Continuous Integration and agile development are available to any Silverlight developer. So the workflow that you're used to in the .NET world is available to you with Silverlight, with the bonus of now being able to utilize WPF to add a rich UI.

Market Exposure:

The stats I can find suggest that about 85-95% of users on the web have some version of Flash Player installed on their machines. Silverlight has a lot of catching up to do on this, but lets not forget this is Microsoft we're talking about not just some startup company trying to get a piece of the pie.

Microsoft have made huge ground on getting exposure to the Silverlight plugin. NBC moved to Silverlight right before their exclusive coverage of the Olympics, I've heard that's a big deal. Also the DNC (Democratic National Convention) provided, for the first time, video coverage of the Convention on their website, of course Silverlight based. Biggest of all though is the one that most people overlook ... according to Compete.com, Microsoft.com is the 8th most popular site on the Internet, with around 60 million unique visitors a month. With the homepage and also the download center now in Silverlight that's quite a bit of exposure.

Conclusion:

Flash has been around for a long time and in a lot of ways it's still better than Silverlight. You have to put it in perspective though, Flash is now moving into version 10, whereas Silverlight is in beta on version 2.
Microsoft, however, has the benefit of leveraging years of work on the programming side whereas Actionscript is relatively new and has only recently started moving from a scripting language to more of a programming interface for Flash.

So bottom line it depends on your needs and resources, if you have a bunch of .NET Developers and a client that wants a RIA then it's really a no brainer ... Silverlight is for you. If you have a client that needs a full scale business application on the web, Silverlight might also be for you as you have a full scale development framework to leverage. If, however, you have a client that wants a cutting edge UI with 3D integration, then Flash might be a better option. Either way RIA's are the future for business applications and if you want to pitch a solution to your client be sure to consider either Flash or Silverlight apps as a way to deliver that solution to your client.

---
Living to Code != Coding to Live


Comments (234)

"... if you have a bunch of .NET Developers and a client that wants a RIA then it's really a no brainer, Silverlight is for you."

I'd agree with that, if the client is willing to pass the installation costs along to the audience and take the probable drop-off in viewing rate. (It's not just developers... audience needs are important too.)

jd/adobe


"...NBC moved to Silverlight right before their exclusive coverage of the Olympics..." and moved back to Flash straight after. And don't forget it's *MS*NBC now... guess they tasted their own dog-food and it wasn't so good.


One other thing to consider is the ability your clients have to download. We have over 2000 clients and almost all of them are able to use/see the Flash elements on the website we have built for them. When testing out silverlight with our clients, many of our clients needed to get an IT administrator to download silverlight. Since it's so new people don't have it, and if your client is restricting people from downloading, then moving people over to silverlight can be big pain in the butt. So we stuck with Flash for now b/c of this hurdle.


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The new Zune browser is surprisingly good, but not as good as the iPod's. It works well, but isn't as fast as Safari, and has a clunkier interface. If you occasionally plan on using the web browser that's not an issue, but if you're planning to browse the web alot from your PMP then the iPod's larger screen and better browser may be important.


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Between me and my husband we've owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I've settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.


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This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like 'Mixview' that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you're listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of "neighbors" will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune "Social" is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.


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Sorry for the huge review, but I'm really loving the new Zune, and hope this, as well as the excellent reviews some other people have written, will help you decide if it's the right choice for you.


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Between me and my husband we've owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I've settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.


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The new Zune browser is surprisingly good, but not as good as the iPod's. It works well, but isn't as fast as Safari, and has a clunkier interface. If you occasionally plan on using the web browser that's not an issue, but if you're planning to browse the web alot from your PMP then the iPod's larger screen and better browser may be important.


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If you're still on the fence: grab your favorite earphones, head down to a Best Buy and ask to plug them into a Zune then an iPod and see which one sounds better to you, and which interface makes you smile more. Then you'll know which is right for you.


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This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like 'Mixview' that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you're listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of "neighbors" will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune "Social" is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.


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The Zune concentrates on being a Portable Media Player. Not a web browser. Not a game machine. Maybe in the future it'll do even better in those areas, but for now it's a fantastic way to organize and listen to your music and videos, and is without peer in that regard. The iPod's strengths are its web browsing and apps. If those sound more compelling, perhaps it is your best choice.


Hands down, Apple's app store wins by a mile. It's a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I'm not sure I'd want to bet on the future if this aspect is important to you. The iPod is a much better choice in that case.


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Apple now has Rhapsody as an app, which is a great start, but it is currently hampered by the inability to store locally on your iPod, and has a dismal 64kbps bit rate. If this changes, then it will somewhat negate this advantage for the Zune, but the 10 songs per month will still be a big plus in Zune Pass' favor.


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