Silverlight 2 Now Available

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Silverlight 2, the latest version of Microsoft's cross-platform browser plug-in for multimedia applications, is now available.

Silverlight, which competes with Web-based applications such Adobe Flash, promises to give developers accustomed to the .NET Framework a familiar environment in which to create rich Internet applications. Silverlight uses a subset of the .NET platform, but it doesn't require that .NET be installed on a Web site's server to work, according to Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's corporate vice president for the .NET Developer Division.

Guthrie emphasized Silverlight's strength in enabling "premier media experiences." For example, this summer, Silverlight was deployed to support more than 70 million videos for the Olympic games, typically streaming at 1.5 megabits per second, Guthrie said. Silverlight features what Microsoft calls "adaptive streaming" technology to ensure video quality. The app is also being used by CBS sports, Blockbuster Video, Yahoo Japan and Toyota, he added.

For developers, Silverlight has the advantage of supporting virtually any programming language, Guthrie said. The user interface can be controlled at a high level. It also has a speed advantage over JavaScript. Guthrie added that in some tests, Silverlight is "a thousand times faster than JavaScript in the browser."

Microsoft is also broadening the accessibility of Silverlight to developers by funding a project led by Paris-based Soyatec that is integrating Silverlight into the Eclipse development environment. The open source effort will be licensed under Version 1.0 of the Eclipse Public License. The integrated solution is expected to be available "in the second half of 2009," according to Microsoft's announcement. In the meantime, a technology preview is available here.

In addition, Microsoft plans to supplement Silverlight's controls by releasing a Silverlight Control Pack later this month under the open source Microsoft Permissive License. The XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) vocabulary is also slated for release under the Microsoft open specification promise. Developers typically use XAML, which is part of the .NET Framework, to create user interfaces.

While the open source announcements were news, Guthrie had nothing to say at this time about Moonlight, an open source Linux version of Silverlight under development by both Microsoft and Novell.

Developers who downloaded the Silverlight Release Candidate version distributed late last month will not find much new in Silverlight 2, as there were no new API changes or behavioral changes between the two versions, Guthrie said.

In response to questions, Guthrie said that there were initial problems running Silverlight in the Google Chrome browser. However, those problems have been fixed in the latest developer release version. While Microsoft would welcome adding Silverlight to Apple's iPhone, Apple has no plans to enable Silverlight or Flash to run on top of its phone application. Google's phone solution is more of an open platform, though, Guthrie added.

Individual end users with an earlier version of Silverlight will automatically get upgraded to Version 2, Guthrie said. The updates aren't automatic for IT admins receiving distributions through Windows Server Update Services. Silverlight 2 enables development through Visual Studio 2008, Expression Studio 2 and the free Visual Web Developer Express Edition.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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