Yesterday I got into a discussion with Aral Balkan on Twitter over whether or not it was appropriate to call it Silverlight video as the video is displayed using the <video/> HTML 5 tag. In order to better defend my stance that it was, I decided to investigate the matter further to gain a proper understanding of what was going on. In the process, I had to do an about-turn on my position, and conclude Aral was right. Continue reading ““Silverlight on the iPhone”: poetic license, or just plain dishonest?”
The question was a suggestion for a question to put to the Speaker Panel at last year’s Remix UK. Whilst I never asked it, it looks like someone at Microsoft has – metaphorically speaking – answered my question in the best way possible. And that answer is Gestalt.
<span style="color: #800080;"><script language="ruby"> some code </script></span>
<span style="color: #800080;"><script language="python"> some code </script></span>
tags directly within the HTML. As Gestalt uses the DLR, this need not be limited to Ruby and Python either.
There won’t be any excuses of course as Jobs is rapidly turning Apple into the Microsoft of a decade ago, where the fans lap up any old overpriced and outdated crap thrown to them and the rest of the world despairs over the lack of basic functionality – such as interoperability with non-Apple products – and the right to release software without having to ask permission of one’s overlords. By contrast, Silverlight shows just how far Microsoft has come since those dark days of a decade ago. Silverlight is not just Cross-platform with cross-browser support, Microsoft are working to provide an Eclipse plugin for Silverlight development and the control set (components in Adobe Flash speak) will be released as source code under the Microsoft Public License.
No doubt Jobs announcing that the MacBooks are to get SATA drives to hysterical whoops from the brainwashed will grab the headlines tomorrow, but the rapid march of Silverlight will be tomorrow’s real technology story.
One reason why I’ve been keeping an eye on Silverlight is Expression Studio and XAML. Microsoft have a set of designer tools that create design elements that can then be used directly within Visual Studio. Adobe have nothing like this, which is why Silverlight has been so interesting, and why I saw it having a reasonable chance of ultimately beating Flash. Why do I say Adobe has nothing like this? Adobe has an amazing range of design tools, but there is a complete disconnect between them and Flex. Flash Pro works with incomprehensible – to this developer at least – time lines and binary .fla files, which mean nothing in a Flex environment. Photoshop etc can be used to draw pretty pictures, which developers then have to re-engineer into Flex solutions etc. Flex 4 is set to completely change all of that.
It all starts with MXML, specifically a subset of it called FXG. Adobe have expanded MXML to include graphic primitives, animations etc, ie all the designer stuff that Flash Pro had, but that Flex lacked. Next, Adobe plan to provide support for FXG inside their various design tools. This means a designer can draw a pretty picture in Photoshop for example, and then export it as “code” that Flex can used directly.
Not content with FXG, Adobe have gone further with Flex 4 (or Gumbo as it is code named). Gumbo contains a bunch of components built on FXG, with the unofficial, but wondrous, name of gumbonents. These gumbonents can be skinned to the same n’th degree that Silverlight components can, and so Microsoft lose one of their precious few competitive edges.
Finally, just in case you thought that Adobe were happy to match the Silverlight/ Expression features, there is more. A brand new tool, codenamed “Thermo” ups the anti on Microsoft. This tool enables the designer/ developer to import say a Photoshop layered image, then to pick parts of the image and turn them into Flex components. In other words, it allows a team to work in a far more natural way, whereby the skin comes first, and the component – or “gumbonent” as hopefully they will become widely known – is created from the skin, rather than vice versa as is normally the case at the moment.
All in all, the session was amazing. To say I’m now excited by Flex 4 is probably the understatement of the year.
She describes it as being organic in appearence. I disagree and think it looks cartoon-like, but in a really nice way. The controls basically look hand-drawn, yet work just like normal controls.
Corrina Barber has put together three very different looking examples – complete with source – to show just how easy it is to make radical changes. Click on the images below to play with the live demos (requires Silverlight 2 beta to be installed on your browser), or go to Corrina’s page to access the source.
Nothing too exciting except for the fact that they are Mac screenshots! What is the world coming to when a Microsoft General Manager within the Microsoft Developer Division shows off Mac screenshots? I used to think that Microsoft employees were instantly sacked even for saying the word, let alone using one!
At Mix:UK last year, Scott did tell me that he viewed Linux, OS X etc as “arch friends”. Looks like he was serious…
So why is HTML 5 so exciting? The answer is simple: it fixes just about all the current shortcomings of HTML that Flash, Silverlight, PDFs and Quicktime seek to fix without needing plugins for all of the above (and possibly not getting a plugin for one of the above if you are on the “wrong” browser or operating system.) It also fixes a bunch of problems that none of these plugins successfully fixes by themselves:
- Next there is the <movie/> element. No more having to embed the Flash/ Silverlight/ Quicktime/ Media Player object within the page; just use the built-in tag.
- Want to do documentation in HTML? Fed up with the lack of proper mark-up tools? Currently this drives people to use PDFs (or, if they are really clueless or just joined to Microsoft at the hip, Word Docs) instead. The inclusion of sections with headers and footers, figures, asides etc now provide a much richer suit of mark-up tools for HTML documentation.
The really clever new stuff though includes:
- History and location support. The page will no longer be limited to trying to trap the page back event, it will now be able to find out its own history in terms of the page back and forward URIs and state models (state objects that the page can define).
- Storage. Persistent local storage that includes a SQL database will be available to the page for storing state data locally on the user’s machine.
- Documents become editable. Set the designmode attribute to “on” and the whole page becomes editable. Will the whole web become a giant wiki?
The scope of the changes from v4.1 to v5 of the HTML specification is vast and I’ve only touched on a few aspects. If you want the full story, grab yourself a huge mug of tea or coffee, set aside a few hours and read the HTML 5 Working Draft.