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InfoQ Homepage News Silverlight for Mobile Platforms – the Current Status

Silverlight for Mobile Platforms – the Current Status

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Microsoft seems to be pushing Silverlight into a cross-platform web application framework for mobile devices. Silverlight is already available for Windows Phone 7 and Symbian^1, and it seems it is being also ported to Android and iPhone.

Silverlight for Symbian^1

Microsoft announced Silverlight’s availability for Symbian during MIX 2010. The browser plug-in will run on Symbian^1 which is built on Symbian OS and platform S60 5th Edition, which in turn is built on Symbian OS 9.4, so it is not released for Symbian^3 which is open source. Silverlight runs on a limited number of Nokia phones, 5800 XpressMusic, N97 and N97 mini, and it works only inside Nokia’s default web browser.

Silverlight on Symbian^1 runs on .NET Compact Framework, a hardware abstracting environment meant for running managed applications on platforms with limited resources. Available tools for development include:

Silverlight for Windows Phone 7

According to some leaked information, there will be two important platforms for Windows Phone 7: Silverlight 3 with some features from Silverlight 4 and XNA, but Microsoft plans to make Silverlight the basic platform for Windows Phone 7, as S. Somasegar, a Senior VP at Microsoft, said: “At the heart of Windows Phone 7 Series development is Silverlight.” 

The available development tools include:

  • Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone CTP
  • Windows Phone Emulator CTP – integrated with Visual Studio
  • Silverlight for Windows Phone CTP
  • XNA 4.0 Game Studio CTP – to write games for the phone, Xbox, and desktop.

Another development tool for Windows Phone 7 is Expression Blend.

Silverlight for Android

For Silverlight to be an important player it needs to run on all major operating systems and on all major mobile platforms. There are no clear details for Silverlight for Android but Google’s open source platform is supposed to be supported soon. After releasing the Tag application for Android, some wonder if Microsoft’s next application for Android will be Silverlight.

In the meantime, Miguel de Icaza has announced plans for creating MonoDroid, which is Mono for Android which “will include a comprehensive binding to the Java APIs, but accessible through the JIT-compiled, 335-powered runtime engine”. Their idea is to create a platform similar to MonoTouch (iPhone) so the developers can use the base code across multiple mobile platforms, having to port only the UI code.

Moonlight is already running on Chrome, so MonoDroid will be most likely announced in the near future.

Silverlight for iPhone

Microsoft’s plans for Silverlight on Apple’s phone are also not clearly expressed but they have received approval from Apple to port Silverlight to iPhone. Microsoft has showed Silverlight streaming on iPhone at PDC 2009. Brian Goldfarb, User Experience Platform Manager at Microsoft, explained the reasons:

The iPhone is a unique scenario. We talked to our customers...and they said, 'Look, we just need to get our content there, and it's mainly in the media space like broadcasting, and we want to put it on the iPhone.' They have a great solution for that; if you're surfing the Web, and hit YouTube and hit 'Play,' it'll play your video because they've created an environment where they can safely play media, and they're comfortable with that.

It seems that Microsoft is poised to make Silverlight the main web application framework by covering all major OSes and mobile platforms. It remains to see how they will compete with Adobe Flash and native HTML5.

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