Silverlight, MIX &

As some people have noticed, I will be speaking at Microsoft MIX this year. I’m sure a few people are curious what I’m doing there.

A couple of months ago, was presented with an opportunity to work on a very interesting Silverlight project, with a fairly flexible timeline. I’ve been looking for an excuse to dig deeper into Silverlight for a while so it made a lot of sense. As an extension of that project Microsoft asked me to present a talk at MIX discussing the project. Regrettably, the project start was pushed back due to (not entirely unexpected) bureaucratic delays. As such, the talk will focus on a more general overview of the casual gaming market, and what opportunities exist in it for Silverlight.

That covers why I’m speaking in Vegas, but what about the politics? While I am not so naive to believe that there are no politics involved with asking me to speak (though MS assures me there are not), I am choosing not to be concerned with them. The opportunity that was presented to us was a good one – it’s a fun project, it made business sense, and it provided us with a low stress environment to really learn Silverlight development.

While my primary focus is (and remains) Flash, I am an interactive developer. I would be sorely remiss to ignore other technologies. Not only does knowledge of other technologies potentially open new project opportunities, but it lets me reinvest ideas and mental models from them back into my work with Flash. Working with C# has already sparked some new ideas for me (not to mention a few AS3 feature requests). Knowledge of alternative technologies also lets us suggest the best possible solutions for our customers or talk them out of a bad one.

We have done HTML/AJAX work in the past and continue to do small amounts of iPhone development for these same reasons. As HTML 5 matures, you can bet we will play and work with it to see how it fits (or doesn’t fit) into our offerings.

We are not jumping ship to Silverlight. Microsoft has not “bought” our loyalty, and they have assured me that working with us is more about seeing what we can do with their technology and our experience in interactive than as a political move. You’ll note that at no point do they associate me with Flash (though it is obviously somewhat implicit), and I will be minimizing comparisons between the technologies when I speak.

I’m looking forward to the conference. I’m a little hesitant with regard to my talk, because I don’t feel I’ve played with Silverlight enough to really discuss the details I’d like, but I’m excited to see what Microsoft announces, and to hang out with the community. If you’re going to be in Vegas for the event look me up!

I’m planning to blog a fair amount about my experience with Silverlight on this project, once I feel that I’ve dug deep enough to be fair. I’ll be very blunt and honest in what I find – it’s one of the risks Microsoft is taking in involving me, but also shows a level of confidence with the new version that I haven’t seen in the past.

Let me know if you have any questions, and I’m happy to answer them in the comments.

UPDATE: I just want to clarify the intent of this post. It’s not intended as a defence of working with Silverlight – I don’t believe one is necessary. I haven’t met with any hostility, but there has been a fair amount of curiousity, so I thought I would provide some information for those that were interested.

Grant Skinner

The "g" in gskinner. Also the "skinner".



  1. Grant,

    If you have time while in Vegas, the Vegas Adobe User Group is having a meeting on 3/15 and you’re welcome to swing by. Jesse Warden will be presenting that night. Details ->

  2. Hooray for platform agnosticism. It’s the most professional attitude for a developer to have, and its an embarrassment that devs are splitting off into different camps and flaming each other on twitter.

  3. Grant this post is spot on.

    It’s not the tools you use, it’s what you create with them and how you use them. 🙂

    P.S. I like the overall honesty and expectations set in this post.

    Have fun at MIX.


  4. Nice, I hadn’t noticed that you were speaking there. I’ll be sure to catch your talk. I pretty much switched from Flash to SL a while ago, and haven’t looked back. Good to see that you’re open to other technologies.

  5. Grant, well written post! I’ll be a Mix ’10 as well. I’ve been working with integration of Silverlight Smooth Streaming on my new online encoding service, I too feel it’s important to stay informed and up-to-date with platform technologies, especially if one is in the business of providing interactive/multimedia services. Beyond, I haven’t had a reason yet to use Silverlight for my existing business clients, but I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen in SL 3 and 4.

  6. The polyglots shall inherit the earth… Dev on.

  7. Grant, there’s no need to explain or make excuses. When I saw your tweet, it just feel naturally. Being zealot, fanboy or anything similar just hurts development of technology and idea flow. In company where I work, C++ and C# are dominant technologies, but whenever it feels right, we put dash of Delphi or php. I hope you can teach MS a thing or two. 😉

  8. I’m looking forward to your talk mostly because I enjoy your approach to solving problems and using technology. Last time I saw you was at Flashforward in Seattle.

    See you at MIX.

  9. Do as you like Grant. Politics aren’t worth it.

  10. Obviously there is life after Flash, obviously you will get some inspiration by .NET, but, if you are not already, I bet you won’t enjoy the culture difference of the people around MS.

  11. Wow.. it´s really sad that you feel you have to come out and “defend” yourself.

    That part of the flash-community really sucks, narrowminded “flashfundamentalists”. Just watch the recent ipad debate, omg…

  12. Ditto on everyone else, their should be no need to defend yourself on exploring all the RIA technologies available. It can only help make each one better and in the end help all of us getting better tools and support all around. Would love to hear what you have to say about SilverLight once you dig in.

  13. I’m a Flex dev who would be happy to do some Silverlight projects if I didn’t have to run a VM or buy a Windows box to do it. Why isn’t there a cross platform IDE? Although judging by Office for Mac if there was one it will probably suck.

  14. nylarch – I’m totally with you. The biggest initial turn off for me with Silverlight has been the lack of cross-platform tools.

  15. As a longtime flash/ flex dev who has recently been programming lots of C# on the serverside I’m quite interested in taking a deeper look into Silverlight. C# is a very nice language (seems a few evolutionary steps ahead of as3) and there has been some recent examples like the new Bing maps features that show that the browser plugin is actually worthwhile. I think MS has the platform now and what they are missing is the level of creativity in the community that Flash has – giving you a reason to get involved seems like a good move on their part!

    @nylarch – can’t you use mono develop on a mac? I have a vmware copy of XP so I haven’t tried yet but I think it should work… I did install mono develop on Ubuntu a while back and it seemed to work great.

  16. l'homme collectif March 7, 2010 at 8:09am

    Flash is just a tool , you dont have to make a commitment to Flash dev or whatever, nor wear a tshirt “Flash 4 Ever” or “Love Flash to Death” …

    Choose the best tool that suits yr project , or client requirements …

  17. You will burn in hell for just taking a peek at the dark side. I’ve just deleted you from my rss reader and i will be twittering to anyone who cares how much you suck.

    /fanboy out

    sounds fun, I’d learn silverlight too especially if there was a business oportunity to do so


  18. Interested to read the stuff about cross-platform tools. What do folk use for C# on OSX (monodevelop?)? I’d love to hear how Grant, you have approached it, as it looks to me like there’s a fair bit of potential in the syntax – both for Silverlight and also the Unity3D platform. Be good not to be bound to Windows and Visual Studio when building for these platforms.

  19. As a Flash Platform Developer, I believe in this. There are many people building cool web applications without Flash and many of them do not waste their time to defame another technology. If some web technology brings your application to the point which you will it to be at, than it is the best technology for you to use. Whether it is Flash or not.

    Besides there must be competition between technologies to keep them improving.

  20. The Video and the presentation is now online, here:

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