Silverlight, Flash, JavaScript/HTML5, and Objective-C/IOS 4

December 9, 2010

I have not programmed in an Apple environment, so I only can make some indirect comments about Objective-C/IOS. I have used Silverlight, Flash and JavaScript extensively.

Objective-C/IOS

The success of the iPhone and iPad have shown the power of this technology. Objective-C was developed by Brad Cox who then sold it to Steve Jobs to use on this NeXT computer. Cox had worked on Smalltalk at ITT – Objective-C was his attempt at building a Smalltalk environment for the “C” language.

I think that Apple will retain a very profitable niche with the iPad and iPhone, just like they have with the Macintosh over the past 25 years. But the vast majority of the 1.5+ billion people (IMHO) connected to the Internet will be doing so using cheaper products.

Flash

Most of the world’s PC’s have Flash installed, partly as the legacy of Microsoft including it standard in Windows XP. I expect that in will still be around 10 years from now but not nearly as dominant.

Until recently, there was no real alternative to Flash if you wanted videos, or animated graphics. Now both Silverlight and HTML5 (as well as IOS) can perform these functions. So the need for Flash isn’t present going forward. Also, Microsoft make many tools available for free that Adobe charges for. My guess is that new development will use HTML5 or Silverlight.

JavaScript/HTML5

JavaScript has become a lot faster over the past few years. And HTML5 has a “canvas” element that uses SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). So *in theory* JavaScript/HTML5 could replace all of Flash/Silverlight/IOS.

The problem is that there are multiple browser vendors and the market seems to be fragmenting even more. There has been very slow progress in the standards committees for both HTML5 and ECMAScript. It may be years before the standards are finalized and adopted by all the major browser vendors. After that, there will be another delay before a majority of users are using the new browsers.

I think that the proprietary products (Flash/Silverlight/IOS) have an advantage  because they each deployed and deployed by a single team.

I have already tested a JavaScript version of Smalltalk. So I can bring out a JavaScript version of SST if the market moves in this direction. However, I think that it will be several more years before more than 50% of the browsers in use support HTML5.

Silverlight

There are certainly factions within Microsoft that favor HTML5 over Silverlight. Considering that the company has around 90,000 employees this is not surprising – they seem to be going in many directions at once.

You can check out the latest market penetration of various RIA (Rich Internet Application) technologies at http://riastats.com.  Silverlight versions 3 and 4 are installed on about 60% of all browsers and there has been rapid growth over the last two years.

Regardless of Microsoft’s internal battles (and their incredibly stupid decision not to support dynamic languages in .Net) some of their products like Windows 7 and Silverlight are being well accepted by consumers.

In summary, Silverlight Smalltalk is my bet on Silverlight for the next 5 years or so. After that, HTML5 may become more important, in which case I will release a JavaScript/HTML5 version of Smalltalk.

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