Yesterday myself and Gary Scott (our MD) went down to London for the Silverlight 3 UK launch event. This is the first time I have been to Microsoft's London office so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The glass-clad arched office exterior, and shiny minimalist interior were certainly stylish, however I was a bit disappointed to see an X-Box in the reception rather than a Surface.
The event itself was quite low-key, with around 50 attendees (you can see some of their reactions via the twitter tag #sl3uk). The launch itself consisted of two presentation sessions hosted by Ian Ellison-Taylor (GM, Presentation Platform and Tools, Microsoft) and mainly consisting of a number of shorter presentations / success stories from a range of UK companies. The focus seemed to be less on SL3 and more on the whole toolset that surrounds it, with various Expression Studio components such as Sketchflow and SuperPreview being highlighted.
For me, one of the most compelling technology demos was Silverlight + IIS SmoothStreaming. Ian demonstrated how live HD video could be delivered to the browser in a way that degrades seamlessly when network bandwidth falls. Even more impressive is the way that this feature is used to provide an almost instant response when the user clicks on the scroll bar in order to 'jump' to a specific point in the video. Typically video players will buffer for a number of seconds before play re-commences, however with SmoothStreaming, low quality video is delivered almost instantly, and slowly ramps back up to full HD quality, again quite seamlessly. I can certainly see the major broadcasters wanting to adopt this technology.
Of the UK companies, the most interesting demonstration was of the new Tesco Beauty Room. This prototype application uses deep-zoom to provide users with a very visual and quite unique shopping experience. I am not entirely convinced of the usability of this application, you could quite audibly hear the amount of mouse activity required to select a product via deep-zoom, however the fact that a major global retailer is taking an interest in Silverlight is significant.
In the Q&A session I had the chance to put my question to Ian about Silverlight adoption:
|Personally I think Silverlight is great, as do many of my fellow developers, however, we are finding a certain reluctance to adopt Silverlight from the companies we are working with due to low penetration figures for the Silverlight plugin. Is it just a waiting game or does Microsoft have a strategy for driving adoption?|
I am happy that Ian's response was both long and thoughtful. Microsoft currently believe that about one-third of all browsers have the Silverlight plugin installed, Ian also mentioned a slightly higher adoptions figure in the UK. A quick check from riastats.com agrees with this claim:
Considering the age of the technology, Microsoft are pleased with the current level of penetration. From past experience in technology adoption, they expect that it will accelerate to follow an S-curve. However, figures from statowl.com do not show any clear signs of accelerated adoption yet:
Ian mentioned that there are some companies with Silverlight projects on hold until adoption reaches 40%, other 50% - which should contribute to adoption growth and acceleration.
In my opinion, these figures should not give anyone cause for concern. Microsoft is trying to break into a market which is dominated almost exclusively by Adobe Flash, with the only other competition being Sun's Java-FX, Microsoft can happily play the long game!
Other interesting points included the Silverlight powered online SEAT Exeo marketing campaign. Their figures indicated that 59% of people who visited the site without Silverlight installed the plugin in order to view their site's content. Part of this success they attributed to a custom installer.
Finally, it was fun to finally meet up with some of the other WPF Disciples in person. Here is a picture of myself, the CodeProject article machine Sacha Barber (left) and recent Microsoft MVP awardee Marlon Grech: