Is Microsoft Changing Strategies On Silverlight?

This article was recently posted on ZDNet, detailing Microsoft’s diminished mentioning of Silverlight in their keynote.  From the article, it sounds like Microsoft is positioning Silverlight to become their mobile development platform, with HTML5 becoming their main cross-platform focus.

This change in focus correlates with the increased popularity of Apple’s iOS platform.  It makes some sense that Microsoft would want to avoid have a proprietary development platform on iOS, as Apple has been pretty hostile toward’s Adobe’s Flash platform.  I don’t see the longtime rival acting any differently towards Microsoft.  In this instance, HTML5 makes more sense when attempting to reach the populous iOS market.

If you wish to discuss Silverlight, HTML5 and iOS development with employees of ImageSource, come visit us at Nexus.


The death of Windows Forms and the rise of XAML

A little history

Microsoft technologies move in decades.  Every 10 years or so Microsoft introduces a better way to write Windows applications.  My programming experience goes back to Win32 APIs and MFC in the 90s and .NET in the 20th.  (Yes, I know Java come before .NET and I actually work with that platform for a numbers of years, but let’s just leave Java out of this discussion.)  So here we are in 2010, starting a new decade, is there a better way to write Windows apps?

Windows Forms

Windows Forms for .NET dominate thick client applications in the last decade and Microsoft has said that they will continue to support Windows Forms for the foreseeable future.  However,  three technologies/application types that would put Windows Forms to bed are rich internet apps, cloud apps, and phone apps.   The main problem with Windows Forms is that you cannot easily adapt those apps across different devices/app types and that is where XAML shines.


Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) simplifies creating a UI in .NET.  Both WPF and Silverlight use XAML, but the biggest promise for XAML is that XAML-based apps can easily be adapted to different devices.  Microsoft has indicated that they want to control 3 screens: PC, TV and phone.  Whether or not they will succeed that vision is another story, but I believe that XAML will be the delivery mechanism for these next generation apps.


I don’t see Win32, MFC and Windows Forms for .NET apps going away anytime soon.  In fact, I don’t see them going away at all because that’s what Windows is built on.  That said, XAML is the better way to write Windows apps for this coming decade.  If you are a Windows developer and don’t get to work with XAML in your day job, you should learn it at night.

Installing Silverlight 4 Beta


If you are getting an install error while trying to install Silverlight 4 Beta on an existing machine with Silverlight 3 SDK installed, please verify that your Silverlight 3 SDK version is 3.0.40818.0.

If you have an older version installed, you can uninstall it and reinstall a newer version here.

Hope this helps.

Phong Hoang
ImageSource, Inc.

Distributed Capture & Document Capture

Distributed Capture & Document Capture

Capture is only a part of the ECM universe, but a crucial part nonetheless. Once a document is captured into an Enterprise Content Management system, it must be stored, perhaps put into a workflow process, archived, and made available for retrieval. Retrieval is in many ways the main thrust of an ECM system (no point putting it in there if you can’t ever see it again); retrieval is dependent on the index values associated it with it, which brings us back to capture.

Capture is the process of getting documents (and their data) into the system. Distributed Capture is the mechanism by which documents from a variety of locations (near and far) enter the system. The easiest way to do this is to utilize the file system. When different offices (or locations — work from home, anyone?) of a company are on the same network, specific locations on the shared file system can be designated for various purposes. Different directories can be used to input different kinds of documents.

I thought we were going to be paperless by now

This type of taxonomy works okay for existing electronic documents (Word files, spreadsheets, PDFs, etc); but what about hard-copy? The seemingly ubiquitous paper which exists in our so-called paperless office? Well, it needs to be scanned in. You want documents classified in a consistent manner, and the metadata (index values and other interesting info about the document) as accurate and as consistent as possible.

Consistency is key. When setting up a company-wide ECM system, it is a a key success indicator that everybody to follow the same set of procedures and guidelines involved in getting documents into the system. This can be accomplished by having a distributed capture system available.

The company I work for makes and sells a distributed capture system today. As we go through our roadmap discussions for where we want to take the product to solve customers’ future problems, we developers have have to grapple with some fundamental issues, mainly, what is the best technology to use as a platform.

It’s easy to imagine using the web to provide distributed document capture throughout your enterprise. You have centrally managed web servers. Everyone has a web browser on their computer (and cell phone, for that matter). In fact, anyone who’s ever attached a document using an html-based email program has already exercised the base technology necessary for a distributed capture system. One key advantage of Distributed Capture is that you get rid of paper at the source; take a moment to think about the implications of that. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

What else is needed…
There are two main improvements to simply uploading a document by way of a web page. One is the acquisition of the paper document, the other is the user-experience and business process to build into the hosting program. I’ll go into the physical acquisition in a later post, but the user-experience of a distributed capture system has to provide two things to be successful. It must be Dead Simple to Use and it must provide the functionality necessary to get good data into the system.

Our checking with users shows again and again that a single button is an attractive interface, with more functionality exposed as needed. One key question developers raise is what technology to build the interface in?

Technology Pros Cons
HTML Standards compliant, supported by all browsers. Primarily a static user interface. AJAX can add some Zing to the interface, but is problematical in certain situations (back-button, anybody?)
Flash Ubiquitous; Flash player in something like 90% of all browsers. Began life as an animation scripting language, although ActionScript 3.0 is more sophisticated. IDE support is poor. Hard to get my head wrapped around the timeline model.
Silverlight Microsoft integration and toolset. Microsoft has an army of developers working on tools and technologies; big changes in how Microsoft handles internet computing are emerging. Current market adoption is a little slow. Microsoft talks the big talk about cross-platform now, but has a history of embracing, extending, then co-opting technology (in my opinion)
JavaFX Ubiquitous. Many very good VM’s out there. Java itself is well suited to backend, server-side development. UI is not Java’s strong-suit; AWT ring a bell?
Platform Specific Code Leverage native functionality, look and feel. Lots of code bases to implement and maintain. Cross-platform toolkits and libraries tend to dumb-down the functionality to the lowest-common denominator.

I’m sure anybody reading this has ideas of their own about the pros and cons of the platforms listed out, and perhaps other ideas to add to the list. I welcome your comments.

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