In yesterday’s video we talked about WPF and showed off some mind-altering 2D and 3D animations . As we said then, WPF provides access to local data and resources as well as access to bare metal performance including 3D graphics acceleration. But you can’t take that sort of thing to the web. While WPF will run in a browser, that browser needs to be Internet Explorer running Windows.
Silverlight changes all that. Silverlight v1, which has been out for over a year, was primarily focused on media scenarios. Silverlight v2 goes much farther with numerous new features including a compact version of .NET. It’s now an ideal platform for building web-based line-of-business applications like the ones ISVs build today on the CRM platform. CRM and Silverlight 2: seems like a marriage made in heaven. If you’re looking for a way to light up your CRM applications, Silverlight is the way to go.
So bottom line; WPF is very rich, Silverlight is very reach.
As always, Girish delivers a demo that clearly demonstrates how Silverlight can take CRM farther. We continue the professional services scenario. In this case, a client has booked a new project and we need to figure out when it’ll fit into our schedule. That means we need to do some project and resource planning. Girish does that by dropping an iframe that includes a Silverlight control into CRM. When it loads it uses web service calls to pull in team member names and their project and schedule information.
The control displays that in an interesting way; showing transparent cylinders to designate the amount of available hours or capacity and then pours in the project schedule information to show which projects are currently scheduled to which team member. Adding all the team members makes for an interesting data visualization showing where we have time to add additional projects. Once you know that you can layer the new unallocated projects on to the graph. The power of Silverlight comes in when you start interacting with the data; moving unallocated projects around to ensure that we are optimizing staff resources while delivering projects on time.
Of course, the beauty of Silverlight and WPF is that they are so very similar. Learning one automatically gets you the other; giving you the ability to deliver both desktop and web applications as appropriate to your customer needs. User-experience design also becomes much easier as the workflow between designers (using Expression Studio) and developers (using Visual Studio) is well-thought out and seamless.
One interesting twist is that Silverlight 2 doesn’t currently support the CRM web services so it was a simple matter for Girish to add a WCF web service that bridges the two. Girish will be posting this code on his blog here. I know this because I have that promise on video.