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Microsoft Shines Silverlight on Eclipse

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) today announced the availability of Silverlight 2.0, the company's rich Web application plug-in designed to be lighter weight and more versatile than Adobe's popular Flash technology.

Silverlight has been in a mass public beta for months, so today's announcement was more of a formality. But the other half of the news got developers attention: Microsoft's plans to expand the platform beyond Windows by making Silverlight technologies available to the Eclipse Foundation, the multi-party platform for Java developers.

This, said the company, will enable ports of Silverlight to the Macintosh and Linux platforms. In addition, Novell is working on its own Linux port.

The Silverlight 2.0 plug-in will be available for download on Tuesday, October 14, and updates for those who have been using the beta code will follow shortly thereafter. People using Silverlight now won't have to uninstall the beta code and install the final product.

Silverlight 2.0 expands beyond just doing video in a Web browser to support the company's .Net Framework, programming languages like C#, Python, and Ruby and can call Web services and Atom endpoints to support componentized Web applications.

Along with the release of Silverlight2.0, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) also announced support tools for building Silverlight applications. Users of Visual Studio 2008, Visual Studio Web Developer Express, and Expression Blend will be able to build a Silverlight application with those tools. All of these updates are free for users of those tools.

Flash is known for its ubiquity; it's believed to have 98 percent PC penetration, or even higher. But Microsoft said Silverlight has gotten around quickly. Microsoft believes one in four consumers has access to a Silverlight machine and that exceeds 50 percent in some countries.

Its popularity is definitely on the upswing. The Democratic National Convention was streamed live via Silverlight, Microsoft announced that CBS College Sports will begin using Silverlight for its events, Blockbuster will go live later this month with a Silverlight-based movie reviews and rentals service, and AOL will support Silverlight in its Webmail application.

It's most significant use came in August with the Olympics. NBC said people on the Silverlight of the Olympics page side stayed 27 minutes, "which is unheard of. Hopefully that's a testament that if you have unprecedented visual quality, that can provide stickiness to customers to your site," said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the developer division at Microsoft on a conference call to announce the news.

Brian Goldfarb, director of the developer platform group, said Microsoft has three major aspects to commitment to openness.The first is the Source Forge commitment, which will happen in the first half of next year. "It's about opening up the number of people who can be part of the collection of designers and developerss building apps," said Goldfarb.

The next two are listing of Silverlight controls on the site, for other developers to steady and learn from and learn from. Microsoft said it had 11 controls it will open source but plans to go to 50 in the future.

Microsoft also will release the Silverlight Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) vocabulary on MSDN. The Silverlight XAML vocabulary specification, makes it possible to create products that can read and write XAML for Silverlight.

Finally, the company will release Silverlight Control Pack (SCP), a set of controls in Silverlight will be released under the Microsoft Permissive License, an Open Source Initiative-approved license, and includes controls such as DockPanel, ViewBox, TreeView, Accordion and AutoComplete.