Thoughts on OneClick/Silverlight vs Flex/AIR

With the continued push by Adobe and Microsoft into the desktop RIA world, and Microsoft improvements in the Silverlight space, the question of OneClick vs AIR will become an important battle ground in which technology is chosen. Silverlight 3.0 will continue to chase down Flex, and in some areas exceed what Flex offers (e.g. IoC, modules, language features – LINQ).

The Silverlight vs Flex decision will soon be simply down to a decision on what software engineer skillset your company currently has. The feature set between the two technologies I suspect will be pretty much identical, with the release cycle determining the coolest UI features per platform as any point in time. Adobe Flash has the better install footprint, but over pretty soon I suspect you should expect to find Flash and Silverlight installed at any corporate that could be accessing your RIA.

Which leads us to the desktop runtime support. AIR vs OneClick. Now as far as I can see, to support AIR you need to compile your Flex code for AIR. So to offer you application within a browser, and on the desktop, you need both a Flash Flex build and a AIR Flex build – two separate binaries. Likewise, in the .NET world you’d essentially have to have your .NET Silverlight build and your WPF build. Now in .NET if you’re using something like Prism the multi target support provides a Visual Studio solution to build WPF and Silverlight applications using the same source files. So assuming the .NET runtime or the AIR runtime is installed on the desktop there is probably not much difference between the two from a perspective of having to build separate binaries.

What is clear from this posting is that the gloves are off between both companies, which can only help the end user and the software engineer 🙂

Currently I suspect Microsoft has more resources, more cash and more of a will to succeed than Adobe. Adobe has had a lead for a while now with Flex in the RIA space, but Silverlight is catching up fast. On a final note, Microsoft does have a better Virtual Machine, a better compile and a better development stack.


~ by mdavey on March 14, 2009.

6 Responses to “Thoughts on OneClick/Silverlight vs Flex/AIR”

  1. I’ve used both and have to say that Flex is really not a great development environment. That being said, I think the general aversion to Microsoft technologies in Silicon Valley, coupled with Silverlight not being widely deployed will keep Silverlight out of the main stream web for a long time.

    It will probably get uptake on internal networks more than the open web.

    You also forget to mention JavaScript and HTML 5, which is definitely getting some special treatment recently. Safari, FireFox and IE have made major enhancements to their JS engines that greatly enhance performance. And with compilers like Google Web Toolkit, Expresso and Script#, the development environment for this is just getting better and better.

    Should be interesting…

  2. There’s not been much public disclosure of this but at least some desktop runtime environmnent/offline capabilities for Silverlight apps will be via Silverlight not necesarily ClickOnce. Effectively you just put an icon on the desktop that points to the cached silverlight app assembly. I am unclear on details such as how this affects windowing capabilities, drag/drop, system calls etc and unfortunatley I can’t find my origonal source. But this would be a truely low friction install.

  3. Great post.

    Worth watching MIX09 this week to see if any developments come along that impact these areas.

    Naturally, I’m biased 🙂 but I think that Silverlight has a tonne of strength in terms of languages, runtime and tooling and it’s making leaps-and-bounds in terms of progress for both rich media apps and line of business apps.

  4. “On a final note, Microsoft does have a better Virtual Machine, a better compile and a better development stack” – Can’t disagree that Visual Studio and compiling is better in Silverlight, but I’m not too sure about the VM, in what way is it better? Benchmark:, Silverlight 2 beta, so difficult to compare. Comparing prime number counting: Silverlight appears to be 5 times faster…

    One other thing to keep in mind with Silverlight and Flex, designers. There are not too many designers which do not already have experience with Photoshop and/or Flash which gives Flex an extra edge 🙂

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