Microsoft unveils shiny new Silverlight

14 Oct 2008

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Microsoft has introduced the sequel to its Silverlight internet media platform, Silverlight 2, and has revealed plans to support Mac and Linux tools for developing Silverlight applications.

“We launched Silverlight just over a year ago, and already one in four consumers worldwide has access to a computer with Silverlight already installed,” said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice-president of the .NET Developer Division at Microsoft.

“Silverlight represents a radical improvement in the way developers and designers build applications on the web. This release will further accelerate our efforts to make Silverlight, Visual Studio and Microsoft Expression Studio the pre-eminent solutions for the creation and delivery of media and rich internet application experiences.”

Silverlight adoption continues to grow rapidly, with penetration in some countries approaching 50pc, and a growing ecosystem that includes more than 150 partners and tens of thousands of applications.

During the 17 days of the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing, NBCOlympics.com, powered by Silverlight, had more than 50 million unique visitors, resulting in 1.3 billion page views, 70 million video streams and 600 million minutes of video watched, increasing the average time on the site from 3 minutes to 27 minutes, and Silverlight market penetration in the US by more than 30pc.

Broadcasters in France (France Televisions SA), the Netherlands (NOS), Russia (Sportbox.ru) and Italy (RAI) also chose Silverlight to deliver Olympics coverage online. In addition, leading companies such as CBS College Sports, Blockbuster, Hard Rock Cafe International, Yahoo! Japan, AOL LLC, Toyota Motor Corp, HSN and Tencent are building their next-generation experiences using Silverlight.

Microsoft announced plans to support additional tools for developing Silverlight applications by providing funding to Soyatec, a France-based IT solutions provider and Eclipse Foundation member, to lead a project to integrate advanced Silverlight development capabilities into the Eclipse IDE. Soyatec plans to release the project under the Eclipse Public Licence Version 1.0 on SourceForge, and submit it to the Eclipse Foundation as an open Eclipse project.

Silverlight 2, Microsoft says, will come with tools that enable designers and developers to better collaborate while creating more accessible, more discoverable and more secure user experiences.

Highlights of new Silverlight 2 features include the following: .NET framework support with a rich base-class library, Advanced skinning and templating support, ultra-high resolution, expanded .NET framework language support, improved server scalability and expanded advertiser support and cross-platform and cross-browser support.

Microsoft also will release the Silverlight Control Pack (SCP) and publish on MSDN the technical specification for the Silverlight Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) vocabulary. The SCP, which will augment the powerful built-in control set in Silverlight, will be released under the Microsoft Permissive Licence, an Open Source Initiative-approved licence, which includes controls such as DockPanel, ViewBox, TreeView, Accordion and AutoComplete.

The Silverlight XAML vocabulary specification, released under the Open Specification Promise (OSP), will better enable third-party ISVs (independent software vendors) to create products that can read and write XAML for Silverlight.

“The SCP under the Microsoft Permissive Licence really addresses the needs of developers by enabling them to learn how advanced controls are authored directly from the high-quality Microsoft implementation,” said Miguel de Icaza, vice-president, Engineering, Novell.

“By using the OSP for the Silverlight vocabulary, it further solidify its commitment to interoperability. I am impressed with the progress Microsoft continues to make, and we are extremely satisfied with the support for Moonlight and the open source community.”

Beyond funding development in the free Eclipse IDE, Microsoft currently delivers state-of-the-art tools for Silverlight with Visual Studio 2008 and Expression Studio 2. In addition, support is now extended to Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition, which is a free download.

“We wanted to build a cutting-edge, rich internet application that enables our customers to search our vast database of content and metadata so they can access movie reviews, watch high-quality movie trailers and either rent or buy movies from our new MovieLink application,” said Keith Morrow, chief information officer, Blockbuster.

“Because Silverlight 2 now includes several new rich controls such as data grids and advanced skinning capabilities, as well as support for the .NET Framework, allowing us to access our existing web services, we were able to easily maintain the high standards of the Blockbuster brand and bring the application to market in record time.”

By John Kennedy

Pictured:Microsoft Silverlight delivered the Democratic National Committee Convention

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com