Silverlight 2 Roadmap Revealed

When Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) began beta testing Version 2 of its Silverlight cross-browser, cross-platform streaming media technology a month ago, company executives’ only comment on delivery is that it would be released in final form by year’s end.

Earlier this week, however, a Microsoft developer in Bangalore, India, posted a slightly more detailed roadmap for Silverlight 2 on his blog. According to the posting by Ashish Thapliyal, the company is shooting to unleash Beta 2 of Silverlight 2 in May.

“We are targeting late Summer [for final release],” Thapliyal’s post said.

Beta 2 will also feature what Microsoft calls a “Go Live” license, which enables developers to write commercial applications using the beta code, the post continued. Beta 1 comes with a “non-commercial” Go Live license.

A Microsoft spokesperson described the posting, which was evidently not sanctioned by executives, as being “somewhat correct.”

“Silverlight 2 is slated to RTW [release to Web] in the fall. One thing to keep in mind with these dates is that ultimately it’s the quality of the product and ability to satisfy customer needs that drives when a product sees the light of day,” the spokesperson told in an e-mail.

Microsoft introduced Silverlight a year ago, and shipped Version 1 last summer. However, Silverlight 1 only supports applications written using JavaScript. Version 2, in comparison, will support applications written using Visual Studio and the .NET Framework. That means developers will be able to use core development languages like C# and Visual to write for Silverlight 2.

Perhaps a little ironically, Version 2 was originally named Version 1.1, but Microsoft renumbered the release in November to better reflect the significance of the release – particularly its ability to support the Visual Studio languages.

“To me, it’s what turns Silverlight from a streaming video plug-in into a development platform that you can actually write applications for,” Greg DiMichillie, lead analyst for application platforms at research firm Directions on Microsoft, told when Microsoft changed the numbering in November.

At last month’s MIX08 conference, Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of developer platforms, told the audience that Silverlight 1 has been attracting 1.5 million downloads per day. That may help Microsoft to get a leg up on Adobe’s (NASDAQ: ADBE) competing Flash technology, which that company estimates is already on 90 percent of all PCs in use.

The blog post also disclosed that the move from Beta 1 to Beta 2 would cause developers some problems, although Thapliyal did not describe them.

“There will be breaking changes between Beta 1 and Beta 2 of Silverlight 2 but the changes will not be drastic between Beta 2 and [the] Final Release …. Also, if you develop your websites using 1.0, it will be compatible when 2.0 comes out …. There is only one Silverlight so all the capabilities of 1.0 will be unified in the 2.0 release,” the post said.

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