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Silverlight vs. Flash: How Silverlight Compares to Flash

Thanks to Apple not allowing Flash on its iPhones, iPods and iPads, Adobe has made way for Silverlight, which is now installed on nearly 60 percent of all connected devices around the world, offering access to .Net, COM, WCF and able to run on the Mac OS, Linux as well Moonlight. Microsoft developed Silverlight to create its own RIA market and as blogger Robert Scoble claimed upon its initial release: “Microsoft rebooted the Web”.

In version 4, Silverlight has some very neat features, some of which you’ll find in Flash 10.1, but many you won’t! So what does Silverlight 4 have to offer? Well, firstly Silverlight is much smaller and quicker to install compared to Flash. Silverlight 4 has a support for offline digital rights management (DRM) which is cool because that means you can download a movie and watch it later when you’re offline.

Silverlight 4 has out-of browser execution: FullTrust out of browser  and HTML support out of browser- so it basically puts a link to the application directly on your desktop. It runs in its own window and is not contained in any browser window. Silverlight 4 also provides data grid enhancements, localization, printing and webcam support, rich text edit as well as hardware-accelerated (GPU) video decoding for 1080p H.264 playback.

For designers, Silverlight supports the WPF animation model, which is time based instead of frame based. The user simply defines the start and end conditions and the program does all the work in figuring out how to get there for you.

In terms of video/audio, Flash supports multiple video formats. Audio formats are all proprietary, except for ADPCM, but I’m not sure how many people actually use it. As part of CS5, Adobe offers a suite of tools to enhance Flash development. The new Flash Catalyst for instance is an interaction design tool for quick prototyping of UIs and behaviours. Adobe has also added multitouch and gesture support, along with awareness for onscreen keyboards, making Flash friendlier to tablet and Smartphone deployment.

As an InfoWorld review points out, for any enterprise project requiring heavy programming or data access that would benefit from Windows desktop integration, Silverlight is the way to go.

Both platforms are strong, but in different ways. I think Microsoft’s Silverlight is geared more towards developers whereas Adobe’s focus is more on design. No matter what, it’s nice to see some competition so that both products keep improving.

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