The argument for Silverlight as part of your corporate optimized desktop

silverlightWhat do you deploy to your people as part of your corporate standard desktop?  Windows 7 – yep gota have that! Office 2010?  Yep you know you need to moving to it if you want your people to work as efficiently as possible.  MDOP – well obviously you’re going to be using parts of MDOP to get the job done, be it App-V to deploy your line of business app or Med-V to deploy the actual desktop.  Over and above that what more are you packing in?  Is Silverlight in there?  In this post that’s exactly what I propose.  You should be rolling Silverlight as part of your standard practice.

I can already hear the question screaming in over the ether…Why? Why? Why?!

And I can hear the reasons for not doing it too… “it’s another thing to maintain”, “it’ll encourage people to watch x-y-z instead of working”, “we don’t code for Silverlight, none of our own apps use Silverlight”, Actually that’s a good way to answer the why.

“it’s another thing to maintain”

That is a stance that you could take, given how hard other plugins are to manage.  But we’ve thought about it well in advance and there are two very easy ways to do it.  Firstly Windows Update is aware of Silverlight, so your WSUS, SCCM or SMS infrastructure that you’ve already deployed to manage your business is ready to keep your Silverlight clients on the latest version.  Then there’s Windows Intune, when it’s released there’s yet another option for management. 

Secondly Silverlight itself can check for updates and install them, something that’s controllable via group policy.  What’s required for this “self update” option is for the user to have Administrator access to their PC and an Internet connection.

If you have a more tightly controlled environment then option one is probably for you but if you’ve chosen not to do too much in the way of management you’ve got yourself covered with option 2.

“it’ll encourage people to watch x-y-z instead of working”

Really?  I’m not sure there’s a huge amount of merit in the argument for blocking peoples access to specific sites these days.  It might be me, I might not be seeing it, but we don’t block access to iPlayer (or SkyPlayer which uses Silverlight) at Microsoft and I don’t see people watching TV shows all day.  Surely as an IT Pro it’s better to provide the flexibility in case they do come across a business critical site that uses Silverlight – perhaps something using Pivot for really rich BI?

“we don’t code for Silverlight, none of our own apps use Silverlight”

Ahh the famous case of the chicken and the egg.  I’m a firm believer that if you give people the ability to build something they’ll push the envelope and really build SOMETHING.  How much of a difference would it make to your people if your line of business application actually looked the part and was so easy to maintain that the dev guys were able to keep it beating with the pulse of your business and users?  IT Pros should be leading here, providing the tools and capabilities to make things better.  It’s the same reason that I always think it’s best to deploy 64bit over 32bit where possible.  Not because you need it right now, but you might. 

I always remember being forced to deploy another browser plugin because a CBT (Computer Based Training) course was developed that would only run with version 9.55 or later and we were on version 7, in a regulated industry where you need everyone (that was about 10k people) to complete the training in 30 days time it was a painful lesson.

Do you deploy Office?  Well if you do and if you intend to allow people to use Office 2010 Web Apps then you’ll get a much better experience with Silverlight installed as helps with even little things like synchronising files to the web.  The Office deployment guide goes into far more detail:

Silverlight enables a better online experience with, powers the Office 2010 interactive guides (available with Office 2010), improves the user experience of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, improves the performance of Office Web Companion applications, and helps with the process of uploading Office documents to cloud services.

So all up, if you want the best Office 2010 experience you want to be installing Silverlight and if you don’t you’re going to miss out on some great features – the interactive guides significantly diminish the learning curve for your users!

From the why we move into the how:

How do I deploy Silverlight at work?

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times above, Silverlight is pretty easy to deploy and we’ve done all the heavy lifting for you with the trusty deployment guide.  But to summarise it you can:

  • Deploy manually
  • Deploy with just WSUS
  • Deploy with SCCM and WSUS together
  • Use group policy
  • Deploy as part of your standard image

The last option isn’t mentioned in the deployment guide, however it’s as simple as installing before you sysprep your image and you can then mange Silverlight using WSUS and Group policy to keep it up to date.  It’s probably best to use this option as a more tactical move if you’re a large organisation.


For more information on Windows 7 deployment see Springboard, for more on Silverlight see for more information on Optimized Desktop see