Silverlight isn’t dead, it’s the heart of Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Xbox


Microsoft’s three screens and a cloud dream is finally coming true.
Like a fairy tale, Microsoft’s Metro and Silverlight story could result in a very happy ending for the company and its close partners. Microsoft’s tile based user interface will now feature on the company’s software that powers phones, PCs, tablets and TVs. Microsoft revealed its Windows 8 Start Screen user interface earlier this month. and less than a week later filled in the missing piece of the puzzle, Xbox. The unification of the Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Xbox user interface is an incredibly important one for Microsoft as a company and its strong user base. Microsoft is hoping its Metro magic will enchant users worldwide into sticking with Windows over Chrome OS/Android, OS X/ iOS and others. Backed with its strong SkyDrive and Windows Azure cloud offerings, Windows 8 and Windows Phone could please businesses and consumers alike.

Microsoft’s bold unification of user interfaces is just the start of a multi device convergence that the company has been touting for years. “Three screens and a cloud” was Ray Ozzie’s promise, Microsoft’s former Chief Software Architect. Ozzie started to use the phrase in early 2009 but the company struggled over the course of 2009 and 2010 to make good of its promise. Facing increased competition from Apple and Google, Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 in February, 2010, just weeks after Apple boss Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPad. Microsoft struggled to provide a decent answer to the iPad throughout 2010 but struck back earlier this month. Windows 8′s new Start Screen interface and integration will run across the desktop, laptops and tablets. Despite Microsoft’s struggles over the past few years, every cloud has a silver lining. Microsoft’s saviour will come in the unlikely form of Silverlight.

Silverlight is the application development platform for Windows Phone 7. Developers use it to access the hardware aspects of Windows Phone devices and native phone functionality. Silverlight can also use the XNA framework and access Xbox LIVE. Microsoft’s E3 announcements appeared lacking on the face of it, but lurking in the background the company just revealed a key element of its three screens strategy. The new Xbox dashboard uses Microsoft’s tile user interface and the company deliberately revealed a new “apps” section of Xbox LIVE. The apps section contains existing Xbox applications like Netflix, Facebook, Hulu and Zune but also hints at a future of new applications with a Marketplace mention. Microsoft has been working hard with content partners to ensure its new live TV service goes off with a bang when it launches later this year but it has also been secretly integrating Silverlight support into Xbox. Microsoft previously revealed in November that it was planning to bring Silverlight to the Xbox as part of the next wave. The company has been suspiciously quiet about its Silverlight Xbox plans ever since. WinRumors has spoken to several company insiders who have confirmed that Microsoft is forking code from the Windows Phone 7 Silverlight stack directly into the Xbox dashboard.

Silverlight apps for Xbox will likely be made available later this year alongside the new dashboard. The support would allow Windows Phone developers to port across their applications with little effort required. There’s even talk of Kinect support to allow Xbox and Windows Phone applications to be controlled in a similar way to a multitouch screen. Whatever Microsoft has planned, Silverlight is at the heart of the Xbox applications Marketplace. Windows 8 also follows a similar path. Microsoft threw its weight behind HTML5 in Windows 8 by revealing that its new Start Screen will be powered by HTML5 and JavaScript based web apps. Microsoft failed to mention Silverlight but this is an important part of the Windows 8 Start Screen. The software giant is readying a new application model codenamed “Jupiter” that will allow developers to create Silverlight based applications, deployed as AppX packages (.appx). The packages will be part of a new Windows application store, pre-installed with Windows 8. Windows Phone 7 applications will port across to AppX with little effort from developers. Microsoft’s BUILD conference in September will be the launch pad for Microsoft’s true three screens and a cloud strategy. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, previously described the next-generation Windows as risky. Next-generation Xbox and Windows Phone is equally risky, it’s lock users into apps across devices or lose out to competitive solutions from Apple and Google. Will Microsoft hit back against stiff competition or risk all for nothing? September will tell.


About Joseph Leon Hall
I am a Systems Administrator, Network Engineer and Senior Technical Support Analyst and Microsoft evangelist. I spend my work time looking after networks, servers, desktops, laptops, and people. You ask wy people? That’s because in any network people matter. ”I am a PC! I am NOT a Mac nor a I a Chrome”

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