Let me download Silverlight plugin even if it’s already installed

One thing which bugs me on Microsoft’s site is that it doesn’t allow users to download the Silverlight plugin on demand. The Silverlight installer webpage checks to see if you have the plugin already installed and if you do, it doesn’t supply you with the download link. Is it trying to be too helpful to the point it’s actually annoying and treating users as idiots!?  I noticed Microsoft does this a lot. It acts as if it knows more than what the user wants for themselves. Maybe I want to download it so I can install it on a non networked computer? or maybe I want to download it just for the pleasure of downloading a file called silverlight.exe!

So I disable the plugin  in Firefox, refresh the page, the link shows up, I download it and save it. Then I re-enable the plugin. Why do I have to go through this process? At least it’s faster than doing a time consuming search to see if some download link is hidden somewhere deep in Microsoft’s site.

How about putting a text informing the user the plugin is already installed and if the user still wants to download it, provide a download link.

I have Flash installed and when I go to Adobe’s Get Flash page, it doesn’t tell me “You already have it installed.. stupid!”. It allows me to download it. Thank you Adobe.

The other confusing usability issue is all the instructions about downloading and installing Silverlight.exe. Some users might miss what “You are ready to use Microsoft Silverlight” really means. It could also mean that your system is ready to download and install Silverlight, as in your system has the necessary requirements installed for you to proceed to get and use Silverlight, instead of “You’re done. You don’t need to download and install Silverlight. You can skip the rest of this page” type of understanding.

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Size of Silverlight browser plugin should not be an issue

Once a while I hear/read about some people criticizing the size of the Silverlight plugin as if the size is a roadblock to its use. I don’t understand what the issue is. The size, about 6 megs, is comparable to Flash’s size yet I don’t hear people complaining about Flash’s size.  What is 6 megs in this era of drives whose capacity is measured in hundreds of gigabytes and terabytes? Most people have broadband and 6 megs is downloaded in a few seconds. The plugin is downloaded only once and unless there’s an updated version, hitting any Silverlight site will not re-download the plugin.

If you look closely at the types of sites that require Silverlight, they are mostly games and streaming video sites. The type of apps which require a lot of disk space and broadband connectivity in the first place. So these type of users won’t blink for a tiny plugin. If a user doesn’t mind downloading the Flash plugin, why should Silverlight be any different? The other type of Silverlight applications are the Line of Business ones used inside an organization where network connectivity is very fast.

So… people… there are lots of more important issues to worry about!

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Why should I pay $99 to put my Hello World app on my own WP7 phone only!?

I think it's a mistake for Microsoft to charge $99 for all developers across the board who want to put ANY app on a WP7 phone. It worked for Apple and it seems Microsoft thinks it should work for it too. The iPhone can do this because it's the first multitouch phone and it sold millions of it. Windows Phone 7 (WP7) on the hand is just coming out into the market when multitouch phones from Apple & Android based are selling like hot cakes. Microsoft is competing with fierce competitors who have created established markets and who offer multitouch phones with tens of thousand of applications and selling tens of thousands of the devices each day. The WP7 doesn't seem to offer gotta-have-it features which will cause current smart phone users to switch.

As a .NET developer, I am attracted to the WP7 platform because I can create an app for it with the skills I already have. For the iPhone, I have to learn a new language, a new operating system & get a Mac computer and pay $99/year for the AppStore. A steep learning curve plus expenses. I will go through this if I am planning to make money off the iPhone.  Less so for Google Android; I can use my current computer with Windows, pay no fees, install an app straight from my computer but the drawback is learning Java.

With Microsoft I have to pay $99/year. This is another example of Microsoft being a follower. It's copying Apple's process. A lot of .NET developers develop for fun. Develop for open source projects. So why can't this be extended to the WP7 Platform? If I want to create a simple app even a Hello World app for my WP7 phone (I don't have one yet.. if ever), to be installed on my phone only, I have to pay Microsoft $99.

If I can't code for fun or code for personal use, I will be discouraged to get a WP7 phone and create professional or commercial apps for it. If enough developers have the same attitude and perspective, Microsoft will lose out if its platform is not adapted on a bigger scale. Steve Ballmer says developers.... developers... developers.. (but put a $99 if you want to put anything on your own phone).

I still own a Windows Mobile 6.5 phone. I can install any app on it at will without going through a third party or pay any fees. I wish this could be extended to WP7. I understand each mobile platform provider wants to have a marketplace. There still needs to be a way to cater for developers who want to develop for leisure and for personal use.

Google Android has the most flexible platform with no fees. It's no surprise 160,000 Android phones are activated every day. Apple is able to charge all developers $99. They were first with a multitouch phone and an AppStore, they like to control everything and Apple users are fanatics and they sold tens of millions of iPhones. Developers will not blink to pay $99 because their audience is huge.

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On Microsoft embracing HTML5 instead of Silverlight

There are lots of posts these days about Microsoft embracing HTML5 over Silverlight. One prominent post is from Mary-Jo Foley. She follows Microsoft closely.


About two months ago, I made a personal decision not to pursue learning and developing in Silverlight and concentrate my efforts in improving my current skills in JavaScript, jQuery, CSS, HTML(5) and other related technologies. What I am hearing today validates my decision.

The areas where I find Silverlight being most useful are in:

  • Windows Phone 7 applications
  • Video playing and streaming
  • Higher end games
  • Heavy data entry Internal Line of Business applications (LOB) replacing legacy WinForm Apps or new apps in favor of WPF. #1 is the most important one.

 

I have yet to see LOB applications in the web projects I have worked on which couldn't be satisfied with the use of AJAX and optimized web services to give them the feel of a desktop application.I have seen some cool UI effects in some public web pages. When I see some of these, I expecting Flash or Silverlight behind the scenes. When I right-mouse click, to my surprise, I notice the page is not using Flash or Silverlight. Web developers are getting more creative and pushing the envelope on what web standards and browsers without plugins can do.

I believe when Internet Explorer 9 is released and being adapted by most IE users, there will be a big transformation in what a web page can do. Web development will be more fun to create and use.
Apple with its blocking of Flash and Silverlight in its devices is a major force in getting developers abandon proprietary standards in favor of open ones.

When you're developing an application or service to meet the public demands, you should follow what users are using instead of going after a technology you have a personal interest in. A basic technology, which works for most users, is better than some eye candy which doesn't last long. An app made for tens of millions of users is better than a few thousand. Follow the money.

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