QWERTY Myth and the entrenchment of Flash

This is a great article about the myth of how the best technology doesn't necessarily win. Granted, sometimes the best technology does not win, but there is a persistent and pervasive sense that the populous often chooses the "VHS" over the far superior alternative. The article addresses the VHS vs Beta debate directly as well as the victory over Dvorak by QWERTY. To encourage you to read the original I won't reveal the clever arguments made.

http://www.reason.com/news/show/29944.html   (Read Me!)

I'm posting this because there seems to be a real sense of fait accompli when it comes to the Flash vs Silverlight debate. Critical mass has already been acheived, why would content producers or development shops choose to target any other platform than the Flash runtime when users have clearly already made their choice? How could Beta possibly make a resurgence against an already entrenched VHS? It would take an entire round of evolution before DVD would come along and supplant the status quo. There are a couple reasons why this article has relevance for Silverlight, and why the VHS / Beta argument doesn't hold water.
  1. Flash vs Silverlight is about a producer investment in technology NOT a consumer investment. Machines are powerful enough, and installations simple enough that the relative cost of owning both technologies is nothing like owning two peices of hardware. 
    1. If there is a competitive advantage for a producer to be gained via a specific technology they will use it. Any differentiators in a competitive field like software has a high potential of making a return. This is a very different decision process than it is for consumers. 
    2. Consumers don't really care or even know which technology is driving their rich content. They care that it "just works" (like flash based video in comparison to WMP or Quicktime) and that the functionality they desire is there. Without a right-click most users won't even realize which is which behind the curtain once they have both installed. 
    3. "Owning" everyone (high adoption) is really not that big a deal when your competition can also have 100% adoption at the same time. This is not like choosing a computer or an operating system. Only Microsoft can prevent themselves from achieving their penetration goals.
  2. Better technology does win. I'm not saying that Silverlight is necessarily the better technology right now, Flash maintains an edge on some specific rendering speeds it appears, and their designer tools are clearly better... but Silverlight has the benefit of coming at this with second mover advantage. They didn't start from scratch, they built out a proven technology (.NET) into new ground by largely copying and improving on the entrenched technology. (sure looks copied from my perspective but that's a different post) The .NET runtime, threading, compiled/managed code and the lack of legacy in Silverlight will all combine to produce demonstrations of browser based technology that will be extremely difficult and expensive to reproduce on the Flash runtime. 
  3. Silverlight does not have to "kill" Flash to win, it only needs to join Flash in the 90% adoption numbers to be a great success.
I like both technologies by the way, I'm just entertained by some of the almost religious like statements on those on the Flash side that sound a lot like any attempt to improve or even add to the status quo is a total waste of time. (or somehow an affront to their own efforts)

Silverlight controls

Silverlight 2 may not have the control set that Flex developers are used to seeing out of the box but there are a significant number of control vendors who are stepping up to the plate to fill the void. It seems as though Microsoft's strategy has been to get the Silverlight 2 runtime out as quickly as possible (and as lean as possible) always knowing that this type of extension to the framework would exist.

I do still hope to see Microsoft push a little further in controls that are downloaded once and only once with the framework itself thereby making our applications leaner - but it's a pretty serious tradeoff until the runtime has the kind of penetration that Flash enjoys.

Anyway, here's a nice post from Tim Heuer that does a good round up of where to find those missing controls.