Microsoft keeps on going

The thing that’s dangerous about Microsoft these days is that they’re like the Energizer Bunny. Since nearly any market they get into requires expenditures that are teeny compared to their business of OS and Office Suite, they can lose as much money as they want without it really affecting their bottom line (see Zune). Because of that they can just keep at a market for as long as they like and hope that one of two things happens a) their competition cracks under the constant pressure (see Netscape) or else they finally get it right all by themselves (see Xbox).

With that in mind I found it interesting that Microsoft is already beginning to push Silverlight 2. Silverlight was released last year to much critical praise and it was Microsoft’s hope (and Adobe’s fear) that it might steal away Flash’s dominance. Well, no one needs have worried, pretty much nothing has happened since then.

As usual, though, Microsoft just keeps on going. Silverlight 2 is going to feature a cross-platform/browser version of the .NET framework. That means every .NET developer out there is going to have a running head start into becoming a Silverlight developer. It also means that you can develop Silverlight in any of the .NET languages including such fancies as IronRuby and IronPython (and perhaps one day, IronPHP). That’s a lot of choice and lot of helping out developers. Of course Flash still has the kickass authoring tool which help out the designers, which is definitely a really key class of adopters that Microsoft still hasn’t targetted and is arguably the more important audience. But this seems to me like some major tailwinds for Silverlight and it will be interesting to see what happens when this next major version of Silverlight is released.

Couple that with announcements like MS giving the Library of Congress $3 million to use Silverlight to power the new www.myloc.gov and Adobe has to be sweating. Sweating enough that it has decided to build DRM into what has up till now been a surprisingly free and open Flash. DRM as has been shown constantly is friend to content makers but foe to its users. Silverlight, of course, already features DRM so in some ways Flash is trying to catch up, but it seems to me that it could be a mistake.

The RIA wars are not going to be lost or won by DRM but Microsoft is showing that it is looking to keep hounding Adobe in this area and all eyes and pressure will be on Adobe to not screw it up. It will definitely be curious to see how this all ends up. Do you think Adobe’s got what it takes to stand up to Ballmer?

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