My chief interest in Silverlight is as an "RIA" technology. I put RIA in quotes because there are different interpretations of that acronym. I was used to a definition similar to the one in Wikipedia: Rich Internet Application. The key in this definition is bringing a desktop-like experience to web applications.
Microsoft's definition is different. They call RIAs: Rich Interactive Applications. To them it is not about web applications with a desktop-like experience. It's about media. This may seem like a minor point, but actually it's the only point worth mentioning to me. It was the most important thing I took away from Anand's speech: Microsoft is only interested in rich media when it comes to Silverlight.
This seemed contradictory to me. After all, they've made a big deal about bringing the CLR to Silverlight 1.1. But Anand was crystal clear on this. If you want to build web applications, then you should be using ASP.NET and all of its great AJAX goodness. You can use Silverlight, but it's going to be very difficult as this is not the focus of Silverlight.
Indeed this message is consistent with the use of Silverlight. You can create a Silverlight application in Visual Studio 8, but you're going to be editing XAML, i.e. XML. Essentially you're creating low-level vector graphics commands wrapped in XML. One of the other attendees at the MSDN talk asked Anand if there is any kind of nice designer that was going to be built in to Visual Studio to make this easier and the answer was "Yes there will be a design view, but it is awful. You need to use Expression Blend."
And there it is. If you want to do Silverlight work, you need Blend. This is a tool made for designers and is not even available to MSDN subscribers. This tool is not meant for developers, and thus Silverlight is not meant for developers.
It's only meant for designers. It's only meant for creating animations or embedding video, etc. That's all Microsoft is going for. Imagine if Adobe got rid of Flex and said "you have to use Flash CS3." That's Microsoft's position.
Again with CLR support built into Silverlight, you might think that it's just a matter of time before it becomes a developer platform. But from what Anand had to say, it's going to be a long itme. There's not going to be developer support in Silverlight 1.1 and Visual Studio 8. VS8 won't be shipping until February and Silverlight 1.1 won't be shipping until next summer. Given that, I would have to guess that it will be at least two years before Silverlight becomes something that can be used by developers. That's truly disappointing.