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Avo Reid

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Flash vs. Silverlight - Words and Numbers

March 04, 2009

If you haven't noticed there is a bit of a fight going on between Microsoft and Adobe about who has the best product, Silverlight or Flash. Addressing attendees at a tech-and-telecom conference  Adobe EVP and CFO Mark Garrett commented on Silverlight's impact on Adobe's flash business.  Silverlight launched more than 2 years ago "has really fizzled out in the last 6-9 months, I'd say...We're innovating ahead of them, and they have not been able to catch up."  Of course this wasn't the end of the story Tim Sneath, director of the Windows and Silverlight technical evangelism team, quickly responded accusing  Garrett of "living in a fantasy world".

Sneath went on to write in his blog posting, "The idea that Silverlight is in anything other than rude health is more to do with what Adobe would like to be the case, rather than what actually is the case. The suggestion that 'Silverlight adoption has fizzled out in the last 6-9 months' is pretty risible, in fact. For starters, Silverlight 2 shipped four months ago, and in just the first month of its availability, we saw over 100 million successful installations just on consumer machines. That doesn't sound like 'fizzling out' to me."

It's hard to say who is right here, 100 million doesn't sound like a fizzle to me, but fizzle is one of those subjective words that can mean different things to different people.  What isn't subjective are hard numbers.   Adobe released Flash 10 in mid-October 2008, 2 months laster as of December 2008, Flash 10 was installed on more than 55 percent of computers worldwide according to numbers from Adobe.  Assuming there are about 956 million PC's using the internet, this would mean more than 526 million installations.  Adobe expects Flash 10 to surpass 80 percent adoption by the second quarter which will make it the fastest installation rate of any versions of technology.  It should also be noted that Adobe claims 99% penetration or 947 million installations of Flash Players when you include installations Flash above version 7. 

If you question Adobe's numbers check these numbers from a one page site called RIAStats.com, URLish for Rich Internet Application Statistics.  Figures on this site are based on actual internet site statistics and show Flash penetration as compared to Java and Silverlight.  This site is nice because it lets you slice and dice the statistics by browser, operating system and country.  You can even embed code in your own site to track statistics there.  What you will see is as of this writing Flash has approximately a 94% penetration across all browers, operating systems and countries.

Data from other analysts also support the domination of Flash in the market.  comScore released a December 2008 Video Metrix report showing that U.S. Internet users viewed a record 14.3 billion online videos during the month, representing an increase of 13 percent. YouTube, a Flash site, reported 49 percent of the incremental gain. comScore also went on to say that Flash is actually gaining momentum since Microsoft released Silverlight, data for 2008 that shows Flash increasing its worldwide share of video on the Web from 66 percent to more than 80 percent.

Other data points include:

  • 86% (up from 84%) of online videos are viewed in the U.S. using Adobe Flash technology and 80% (up from 72%) of online videos are viewed Worldwide using Adobe Flash technology, making Flash the #1 format for video on the web.
  • 99% of viewers use Adobe Flash technology in the U.S. to watch videos online and 97% of viewers use Adobe Flash technology Worldwide to watch videos online, making Flash the #1 format for video on the web.

Yes there is  and will continue to be a battle between Microsoft and Adobe about who has the better product.  But as of today, there is no question who has the most users.

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