What I’ve Learned About The Silverlight Fit Client

01Jan09

Adobe AIR has it.  Mono’s Moonlight has it.  Silverlight doesn’t… at least not yet, depending on what you read.  I’m talking about the standalone host container that allows Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) to live outside the browser.  A Silverlight player that can run applications on the desktop as first class citizens.  There’s even a term for it: “Fit Client” (although I’m not sure if that will stick… I don’t even see it on Wikipedia, for goodness sake; but it’s a bit easier to say than “desktop RIA”, so I’m using it until such time as it becomes completely invalidated).

I’ve been using TweetDeck so much lately that it’s got me wondering a lot why Silverlight doesn’t yet have a desktop container.  I like the idea of having RIAs on my desktop (and yes, I am an unabashed fan of Vista Sidebar, which allows me to actually enjoy my desktop).

So I started searching the tubes for anything I could find on whether or not there actually was a Silverlight container.  Maybe it was out there but I just hadn’t seen it yet; but if there wasn’t anything, and no plans for it in v3, then I wanted to find out why. 

All I was able to find, however, was a scripting solution that allowed you to run Silverlight apps on a Windows-only platform, hosting them inside HTML applicationsIf you want to know more about that, you can find a detailed solution here: Silverlight: Running standalone full trust applications.  (Caveat: the post uses SL 2 Beta 1, as near as I can tell; I had to do some minor tweaking to get it to run against SL 2 RTM).

I concluded that there was no real Silverlight fit client out there, nor was there one on the horizon, and I began laying out a list of wild, uninformed speculations about its absence for this post.  And I almost posted it last night; I’m glad I didn’t, partly because it was turning into a minor rant, and also because I finally found what I was looking for once I started searching for new features in Silverlight 3.

It now appears that Silverlight might actually have a fit client platform in version 3.  This means that you will be able to build desktop applications directly in Silverlight, and they will [theoretically] run on any OS.  If it’s true, then it’s a very, very good thing.  You can find this info among the list of other upcoming Silverlight 3 features at Bart Czernicki’s Silverlight Hack.  His source for the fit client material came from an InsideRIA post by Richard Monson-Haefel, which goes into more detail on the RIA wars happening under our very noses.  And that post is using a NYT article as its source (hmm, starts to feel just a little like “a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who said something about Silverlight…”)  Richard states about the NYT item:

Sound familiar?  What the NYT is saying is that Microsoft has plans to create a Silverlight runtime outside the browser similar to Adobe AIR, JWT, Gears, or Curl. That means developers will be able to create Silverlight applications that run right off the desktop – any desktop. This is what we call a "Fit Client" solution – a RIA platform that works both in the browser and out of it.

I’m a little concerned, however, that I had to scour for as long as I did before I found this information.  My take on it is that most of this is prediction; but I’m also expecting this to get cleared up at Mix09, when there should be some formal announcement about Silverlight 3’s feature set.  Until then, I plan on following this topic for as long as I can.

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2 Responses to “What I’ve Learned About The Silverlight Fit Client”

  1. 1 R. Eric Geiger

    Good point. And true, I have found no official word from Microsoft about a Silverlight Fit Client platform, so I have be realistic that this may not even be on the drawing board.

  2. 2 Richard Monson-Haefel

    My original InsideRIA post about Silverlight 3 is pure conjecture – I don’t have any proof that Silverlight 3 will be a desktop client.



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