The hype on WPF/E is completely overblown. The sky is not falling and the value of Flash has not changed. Actually the future of Flash has never looked better. MS entered this market because Flash is poised for growth as a platform.
First off WPF/E is very similar to the SVG threat posed by Adobe a few years back. SVG had standards support at W3C, the financial backing of Adobe, and everyone was saying that it will destroy Flash. It didn’t even get close, neither will XAML.
The real question here is why would a 281 Billion dollar company (Microsoft) enter a market held by a 2.87 Billion dollar company (Macromedia pre-merger). The reason is that Flash poses a very serious threat to Microsoft and Flash is in a leadership position. Companies the size of Microsoft must enter large markets to fuel earnings growth. The key here is that the Flash marketplace is growing on a grand scale. Flash is currently the technology choice of anyone wanting to provide a seamless interactive experience for web users. It is the gold standard for delivering Rich Internet Applications because it works and is available today. Flash is installed on 95% of the computers on the Internet and is the widest deployed technology product ever. Microsoft must address Flash or miss-out on the RIA opportunity.
First a bit of Microsoft history. Visual Basic debuted at Window World in 1991, it made creating Windows applications easy. In 1993 Visual Basic 3 was released and as a 3rd generation product got allot of traction. It was very influential in the growth of Windows 95 and the success of Windows in general. From version 3.0 onward VB added users at about 30% per year for the next 5 years resulting in a community of about 4-5 Million developers at its peak. What is really interesting is that Flash has actually paralleled this growth. Given a widely deployed player, Flash is attracting new developers at about 30% per year. Flash and Flex are essentially in the 3rd generation release for application development tools. I believe that Zorn and Flash 9 will mark a huge jump in the popularity of the Flash Platform as these releases are 100% about performance. The Flash Platform will make a huge performance leap forward addressing one of the core issues with the Platform. With a dramatically faster version of the Flash Player and much better development tools in Flash/Flex/Zorn, I believe that the Flash Platform will be unstoppable.
There are some very clear signs of what is to come within the public MAX conference schedule. Exploring the program guide, you can see Flash’s future and it looks amazing. Here are the sessions I will not miss:
When Gary speaks on the “Next Generation” player and ActionScript it is time to listen up. I can’t recall the last time that Gary gave sessions like this, actually I think this is a first. Go Gary!
Ely, Christophe, and James are also worth seeing. If you want to inside track on what Flex 2 and Zorn have to offer it would be wise to be in attendance. Cheers Ely, James, and Christophe!
The Flash Platform is staged for tremendous growth. This is the real reason that Adobe acquired Macromedia. We will see thousands of new developers enter the Flash Platform and we will see a bloom of new tools and uses of the Flash Player. This is the reason I started IFBIN Networks. There will be thousands potentially millions of new users for Flash and Flex and providing high quality examples is essential to platform adoption.
As with all things new, some will say the “The sky is falling” and that “the end is near” but is that really true? WPF/E will have a very uphill battle removing Flash as its an entrenched competitor. Considering that MS cannot get Windows Media Player above 60% support is a clear sign of what is to come. MS has a poor security track record and I would bet that WPF/E has some major security holes. I am sticking with Flash, it works today and has a pristene security and deployment record.
The real question you should ask is where will the Flash Platform be in 2006? We will be getting some answers in October at MAX.
My 2 cents,