Microsoft employees donate over $200,000 to Presidential Inauguration. Event to be broadcast via Silverlight.

Obama Inauguration - Install Silverlight

Serge Jespers (who works for Adobe) spotted that Microsoft employees contributed over $200K to the presidential inauguration and also noted that the inauguration will be streamed over Microsoft Silverlight instead of Flash (Presidential Inaugural Committee picks Silverlight. Rest of the world uses Flash.).

Is there a relation? Or was Silverlight chosen simply because it was the better choice?

The main goal for the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) should be to make the inauguration broadcast accessible for as much of the nation's population as possible. Given that, I find it difficult to justify that Silverlight, with about a 16% penetration rate for version 1+ could have been chosen over Flash, which has over 95% penetration for version 9+. (I could not find other independent statistics for Silverlight as it doesn't appear that Microsoft publishes independent penetration rate statistics like Adobe does.)

I also find it interesting that Connie Ballmer (Steve Ballmer's wife) donated $50,000 but is listed as "unemployed" (so her contribution doesn't appear, at a glance, to be linked to Microsoft). The Ballmer household, alone, contributed $100K.

Now when you look at the aggregate numbers, the $200K contributed by Microsoft employees forms a little over 0.5% of the total donations (which, as of this time, stand at $35,321,179). However, it would be interesting to know what other assistance or subsidies, if any, PIC received from Microsoft.

All this said, I do feel that Adobe has to realize that it is playing with the big boys now. Adobe is no Microsoft but it's not a mom and pop shop either. We're talking about a billion dollar company facing off against multi-billion dollar company. I can only assume that while Microsoft did everything possible to make it financially and logistically painless for PIC to use Silverlight. I'd love to know what, if anything, Adobe did.

I get the feeling that Adobe is entirely confident that they have an unassailable lead with Flash. And they may be right. But Microsoft is hungry. Microsoft is always hungry. Steve "we keep on coming and coming and coming" Ballmer is starving. He wants what Adobe has with Flash and he's not going to stop until either he gets it, or destroys Flash, or has a heart attack.

Anyone making a purely technical decision between Flash and Silverlight today would not go with Silverlight based on the penetration rates alone. However, these decisions are not purely technical and people are choosing Silverlight. Microsoft, for its part, is doing whatever it can to make it painless to use Silverlight to stream the defining events of our era (first the Beijing Olympics and now the Obama inauguration). It may not lead to much but I feel that Adobe needs to be more active to maintain, and heck, why not, even expand the reach of Flash.

(And it's not just Silverlight that Adobe has to worry about: there are glimpses of far more interesting, and potentially more disruptive technologies around such as Unity.)

Yes, Adobe, you have the better technology. But this is Microsoft we're talking about. They don't succeed by having better technology but through shrewd business practices. OS X is the better technology and yet nearly 90% of computers still run Windows.

C'mon, Adobe... get in the game, and try to make it as easy as possible for these sorts of monumental events to use Flash. Think of it as an investment in the future of Flash, even if it does sacrifice some short-term profit.

All this aside, you can't imagine how relieved, and delighted I am that Obama is taking office tomorrow. Silverlight or no, I can only hope that he is the silver lining of the dark cloud that was the Bush catastrophe of the last eight years and that we have brighter skies and sunshine to look forward to in the next eight (of course eight, what do you think?) Now if only we had an Obama in the UK... I don't even know where you would start! :)