The Blog-o-Sphere has just been abuzz since Ryan Stewart from ZDNet wrote about how the next big announcement for Microsoft’s Silverlight project is that it is going to support an Offline mode, akin to Google Gears or the AIR platform.
My question to this is why? What is gained by having an application, that is designed to be contained from within a browser, going offline.
For those readers who don’t know what “Offline” technologies are, or how they work, they essentially allow a programmer to store content in local storage on the user’s PC (think Cookies). This way, if the user is offline, for example, in an airplane, they can still access their content.
However, one problem with this is, if the user is offline, are they really going to go through the troubles of loading up a web browser, going to your URL, and hoping that your application is still in cache? It doesn’t seem that this scenario is believable, or really solves too many problems.
What would be really cool is if Microsoft expanded their .NET platform to allow an easy-to-use offline mode. In AIR, when you are connected to LiveCycle LDS, all you have to do is issue one command, and all of your managed variables are stored locally, and managed remotely. If you are offline, you access them the same way. Now, that is easy! While this is possible in .NET, by using SQL Server Express, you would manually have to write the code to manage your variables’s state in either the local or remote repository, and do constant checking on both repositories.
But back to my original question — WHY. I think that people are expecting Microsoft to use Silverlight for all it’s newest and greatest applications. They often forget about .NET being very well deployed among Windows based machines. The only thing I can think of is people are still waiting for Microsoft to fulfill on their original promise of “.NET will be the ultimate, because you will be able to write once, compile to the CLR, and deploy on any platform!” For those .NET folk who say they never said that, I still have a copy of the poster I got at the .NET release party that Microsoft threw in Detroit, MI. I mean, what is the point of compiling down to a CLR if you only support one platform? Don’t talk about the mono project, because, that is unsupported by Microsoft. But I digress — I’ll save my beef with the .NET platform for a different posting..
Anyway, it will be interesting to see what is truly announced at MIX. I will be keeping my eyes and ears open to the announcements, and the future of the world ;-P