Microsoft has launched Silverlight 3, the newest version of its rich Internet application (RIA) technology, meant to challenge Adobe on its own Flash-centric turf.
The release comes on the eve of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, scheduled to start July 13 in New Orleans. In addition to a high-powered lineup of speakers including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, Microsoft is also slated to demonstrate a number of upcoming flagship products, including Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows Mobile 6.5.
Originally announced in March 2009 at Microsoft's MIX09 event, the application has been in beta for the past few months. The newest iteration of Silverlight includes over 50 new features, ranging from enhanced video performance and improved quality to support for Visual Studio, Expression Blend and running Silverlight applications from the browser.
Browser-wise, Silverlight 3 supports the latest browser iterations, including Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3.5, as well as GPU hardware acceleration.
Silverlight 3 is paired with Expression Studio 3, a design tool that incorporates a rapid prototyping capability, design time sample data for testing applications without access to live data, and direct import of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files. The tool also includes a full code editor with C#, VB and XAML support.
Microsoft has long promoted Silverlight as an alternative to Adobe Flash, claiming in the past that one in every four computers runs a version of it. Adobe, by contrast, has claimed that some 95 percent of PCs have adopted Flash.