Is this what really happened to Silverlight?

silverlightScott Barnes was a Product Manager for the Rich Client Platform team, and its no secret that since he left Microsoft he’s been outspoken and has had perhaps a bit of an agenda against the way Microsoft has handled the “change in direction” regarding Silverlight, and against Steven Sinofsky.  So it’s not surprising that he’s at it again, in a post he titles “The Unofficial Windows 8 Developer FAQ”.

.Net developers know all about this story, but in case you missed it, the short recap is that at Microsoft’s PDC in October of 2010, Microsoft talked up their plans for IE9 and HTML5, but only mentioned Silverlight once, in passing.  Then Mary Jo Foley got ahold of then Server and Tools President Bob Muglia, who told her, in a somewhat candid moment, that “our strategy has shifted” regarding Silverlight.  Muglia later was removed from the President’s role, and left the company shortly thereafter.

Since then, Microsoft has been touting HTML5, making a big deal of Windows 8’s HTML5 focus (to the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” of developers) when it was first announced at the D9 conference and pretty much sweeping Silverlight under the rug as much as possible, something that Barnes addresses in this latest diatribe blog post:

Essentially it was an internal two horse race for a while with the deciding vote going to Sinofsky. Unfortunately it was an unfair race given is alleged dislike towards Silverlight so this in turn become a tense stand off between the head of DevDiv and the head of Windows. It’s rumored that Soma and Steve had a huge fall out over settling old scores and as a result Silverlight was put into a “do not talk about it” status mode.

Despite the executive fall out the Silverlight team (aka XAML team) were moved under the Windows org chart and put to work dragging the old into the new but with a clear direction to forever wipe the name Silverlight from their minds. It’s rumored that in planning meetings the words compatibility and Silverlight were no-go words.

Barnes is careful to state that “(t)his is all based off internal gossip, second hand information and blah balh”, and we strongly suggest taking Barnes’s blog posts with a healthy grain of salt, but his conclusion, that Silverlight lives on, but as a built in Windows only feature of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, is interesting:

Q. So… you saying Windows 8 is really Silverlight 6?
A. Yeah in concept yes. Technically no, but if you take a step back from our bad messaging, public realtion screw-ups and lastly our idiotic executive we pretty much did what you asked – we fixed WPF and Silverlight parity & performance and we made it also work on both desktop and mobile. I give you Windows 8.

Barnes ends his “FAQ” with a summary (and not without taking a few extra jabs and Microsoft and Sinofsky), that when you get right down to it, may be the most coherent thing we’ve read about the future of the developer platform we’ve read:

If Microsoft had of come out and said something to the effect – “Look you asked us to fix WPF and Silverlight. We did that, we came up with a way now that lets you develop for our platform in three ways. The first is C++ if you want deeper access to Windows then we’ve tided up our Com++ API’s to a way that C# developers have found palatable. If you don’t want to do native code then you can build applications like you have done with Silverlight in the past but the difference is it will now only be Windows only (sorry). If you then want to build apps that are cross-platform then again we’ve got HTML5 and Internet Explorer story brewing whilst its important to understand that we will not be looking to expand our developer story beyond Windows anymore (there is a certain amount of control HTML5 will give but we still believe Internet Explorer is a better bet overall).

Political intrigue?  A botched message, but overall an engineering success?  “Deafening silence” instead of “actual answers”?  It may be “all gossip in the end” but it sure sounds familiar, and plausible, to us.