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With the release today of Silverlight 1.0, Microsoft has taken its first serious step into the world of rich Internet applications and also its first step toward competing with Adobe's ubiquitous Flash platform.
However, when one looks at Silverlight, all the attention and hype seems to fade away with the initial impression of, "So what, just another streaming media platform."
Still, I am impressed that Microsoft has delivered on the promise of a fully cross-platform and cross-browser run-time for its key rich media platform. In all of my tests the Silverlight plug-in worked well on Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari on the Mac.
From a user experience point of view, that's about it when it comes to Silverlight. It basically does some of the same things that Flash does, from standard video presentations to online applications to interactive games and demos.
On the development side, the options aren't quite as broad and cross-platform as on the player side. All of the tools for creating Silverlight content are Windows-only and most are still in very early and immature beta or even alpha stages.
One that worked well in my tests is the Microsoft Expression Encoder. This is a simple and straightforward video encoding tool that made it possible to output my rich media content in the Silverlight format. Another option I tested is the recently released Expression Blend 2 preview. I'd previously looked at the first version of this tool, which is designed for building Windows Presentation Foundation applications and has more of a interactive animation authoring feel rather than being a full-on application development environment.
Using the preview, users can start off projects as Silverlight projects and build applications for deployment in that environment. As a preview release, though, it was lacking in any kind of documentation, samples or help of any kind in building Silverlight applications.
Those interested in downloading Silverlight or finding out more about it can go to silverlight.net.