Microsoft's Financial Results Have Flash, When You Can Find Them - InformationWeek

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Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
1/28/2008
12:46 PM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
Commentary
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Microsoft's Financial Results Have Flash, When You Can Find Them

Last week, Microsoft announced some impressive financial results from 2007. I thought I would drill down a bit into the financials, so it seemed natural to go to Microsoft's investor page. I found a lot of interesting things there, even before I got a chance to read the annual report.

Last week, Microsoft announced some impressive financial results from 2007. I thought I would drill down a bit into the financials, so it seemed natural to go to Microsoft's investor page. I found a lot of interesting things there, even before I got a chance to read the annual report.Honestly, the best word to describe what I found was "embarrassing" (for Microsoft) instead of "interesting". The first challenge was that the link on the investor page was broken. Yes, that was the (broken) link; who knows how long it's been broken like that. By doing a bit of guesswork, I was able to determine the correct location of the annual report. What I found there was a bit of a surprise. It's an Adobe Flash front-end to several HTML pages, plus a download page with Microsoft Word documents. There's also an HTML-only version that it loads if Flash is not detected.

The use of Flash is especially puzzling. I just couldn't see any value added by Flash; it seemed like the HTML-only version was perfectly functional and even used JavaScript rollovers for a bit of glitz. But then again, I've already gone on the record as a Flash hater, so perhaps this can be discounted.

But what is Flash doing there at all? Microsoft's 2007 Annual Report trumpets that the company "introduced Microsoft Silverlight, which enables developers to create rich, interactive media experiences and applications for the Web." Silverlight shipped more than four months ago; there is plenty of documentation, including tutorials on Microsoft's own Web site. Even some Flash developers are enchanted by Silverlight's capabilities.

Despite all that, Microsoft -- or to be specific, the people who built the annual report -- decided to use Flash instead of Silverlight. I'm extremely curious as to why. Was it due to a lack of in-house expertise in Silverlight? Was a four-month development cycle too short for the annual report Web site? Did the developers decide to use a mature technology for their annual report? Or was it just a big embarrassing mistake, a missed opportunity to show that anything Flash can do, Silverlight can do better?

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