Microsoft Takes Silverlight ‘Everywhere’

Microsoft  today unveiled Silverlight, an
application that will allow developers to disseminate content across
multiple platforms. In doing so, it is warning Adobe  that it won’t have the rich Internet application (RIA)
space all to itself.

Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering RIAs,
two- and three-dimensional graphics, text, animation and video to a wide
variety of form factors and platforms. Potential markets for this
application include streaming video, peer-to-peer file sharing and

Unlike most Microsoft products, this tool is intended to attract developers
and users who may not be Microsoft devotees. Indeed, Silverlight was
code-named Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere for a reason:
Microsoft realized that if it was going to attract customers producing
dynamic media, it was going to have to offer a development environment that
worked outside Windows.

Silverlight thus runs on Safari and Firefox browsers, as well as set-top
boxes and mobile devices. Like the Windows Media Player, end-users would
have to download the runtime once before being able to use it.

By making its announcement today at the National Association of Broadcasters
conference in Las Vegas, before it even ships the beta version of
Silverlight at the end of the month, Microsoft may be hoping to slow the
momentum gained by Adobe among developers of rich-media content.

The two companies have been on a collision course over the graphics software space since Adobe acquired Macromedia in April 2005.

And having
the portable document file (PDF) format war to its rival, it clearly
doesn’t want to lose ground on what it sees as the next important Internet
vector, which is video.

Last year, Adobe unveiled Flex, a
cross-platform development environment of its own. It also introduced the
alpha version of Apollo,
a development environment and runtime that allows developers to create RIAs
that can be used off line.

Silverlight is also intended to make it easier for designers and developers
to create applications without working at cross-purposes, for instance by
giving designers a tool for creating user interfaces (UIs) that developers
can use without having to recode in C# or C++.

Brian Goldfarb, group product manager for the Web platform and tools
marketing group at Microsoft, told earlier this
year that Silverlight “is about providing tools to work better together in a
way that provides a simple skill set environment.”

Brad Becker, a product planner for Microsoft rich client tools, also
explained that Silverlight uses XAML, an extension of XML, to tag
applications in the same way that XML tags content, making it easier for
designers to export the design elements of an application.

Microsoft began working
with XAML as early as 2005 as an application toolkit for developers working
on applications for Windows Vista.

Becker said Microsoft recognizes that, just as developers need to
create applications for a diverse set of platforms, so it has to support the
more creative aspirations of designers.

“It shouldn’t be that just because
you meet the functional need [of an application], that that’s good enough,”
he told during a visit to the software maker’s
Redmond, Wash., headquarters earlier this year.

The software maker is also tying Silverlight into Longhorn, the next version
of Windows Server, which is expected to launch later this year. Longhorn
would give Silverlight greater scalability and provide other performance and
cost-related features like bit-rate throttling.

Microsoft is also rounding out its suite of Expression Studio developer
tools to work with Silverlight.

Expression Web helps developers validate
their work across different schemas of HTML and browser types. Expression
Media is a digital asset management tool that helps customers publish
existing video to the Web.

Expression Design is an illustration tool and
Expression Blend is a tool for creating wireframe diagrams to help
developers create workflows for new applications.

The packages will range in price from $99 to $599.

Microsoft introduced a slew of other products aimed at the media and
entertainment industries, including Interactive Media Manager, a
server-based application to manage the digital content lifecycle from
creation through to distribution.

Microsoft plans to provide more details and formally unveil Silverlight on
April 30, during the Mix07 conference.

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