Microsoft has announced the availability of Silverlight 2, along with new support for open-source development with the rich Internet application platform and new claims of ubiquity for Silverlight.
Brian Goldfarb, director of developer platforms at Microsoft, called Silverlight one of the most comprehensive solutions for the creation and delivery of applications and media experiences through a Web browser. Goldfarb also said Microsoft is providing further support for open source with Silverlight by funding a project to build an Eclipse plug-in for Silverlight and by providing new controls to developers with the Silverlight Control Pack under the Microsoft Permissive License. The Microsoft Permissive License is an Open Source Initiative approved license.
“We wanted to provide developers with the ability to build Silverlight applications using tools other than Visual Studio,” Goldfarb said. Microsoft enables developers to build Silverlight applications with Visual Studio 2008 and Expression Studio 2. The company also has extended support to its free Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition.
According to Goldfarb, Silverlight adoption continues to grow rapidly, with penetration in some countries approaching 50 percent and a growing ecosystem that includes more than 150 partners and tens of thousands of applications.
As part of its plans to support additional tools for developing Silverlight applications, Microsoft is providing funding to Soyatec, a France-based IT solutions provider and Eclipse Foundation member, to lead a project to integrate advanced Silverlight development capabilities into the Eclipse IDE (integrated development environment), said Vijay Rajagopalan, a principal architect in the Microsoft Developer Division. Soyatec plans to release the project under the Eclipse Public License Version 1.0 on SourceForge and submit it to the Eclipse Foundation as an open Eclipse project, Rajagopalan said.
Moreover, Microsoft will release the Silverlight Control Pack and publish the technical specification for the Silverlight XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) vocabulary on the Microsoft Developer Network. The SCP, which augments the built-in control set in Silverlight, includes controls such as DockPanel, ViewBox, TreeView, Accordion and AutoComplete, Goldfarb said. Meanwhile, the Silverlight XAML vocabulary specification will better enable ISVs to create products that can read and write XAML for Silverlight. In addition, Microsoft released the Silverlight XAML vocabulary specification under the Open Specification Promise. In addition, Goldfarb said Microsoft will be innovating rapidly with the control pack and updating it every month.
“The Silverlight Control Pack under the Microsoft Permissive License really addresses the needs of developers by enabling them to learn how advanced controls are authored directly from the high-quality Microsoft implementation,” Miguel de Icaza, Novell vice president, engineering, and founder of the open-source Mono project, said in a statement. Mono is an effort to deliver a Linux implementation of .NET and is the foundation for Moonlight, a project to deliver a Linux implementation of Silverlight.
“By using the OSP for the Silverlight vocabulary, they further solidify their commitment to interoperability,” de Icaza said of Microsoft. “I am impressed with the progress Microsoft continues to make, and we are extremely satisfied with the support for Moonlight and the open-source community.”
In response to a query from eWEEK about the relationship between Silverlight and Moonlight, de Icaza said:
““I love Silverlight 2. That is the only reason we did Moonlight; 1.0 was interesting, but nothing earth-shaking. When we saw 2.0-at the time, a subset called 1.1-we were all over it. And of course, I think it’s brilliant that Microsoft is starting to open up. Their new MS-PL controls will help us deliver Moonlight 2.0 shortly, but it also will jump-start folks that want to learn how to author widgets for Silverlight 2. Silverlight 2 has a fascinating control architecture, and they are just helping developers skip a whole cycle of learning by giving out the sources to the controls.”“
Microsoft announced Silverlight 2 on Oct. 13 and said the technology will be available for download on Oct. 14 at www.microsoft.com/silverlight. Customers already using a previous version of Silverlight will be automatically upgraded to Silverlight 2. A technology preview of the Soyatec project is available at www.eclipse4sl.org, with a complete version available in the second half of 2009.
Meanwhile, regarding ubiquity, Goldfarb said Microsoft estimates that one in four computer users have access to Silverlight.
“We launched Silverlight just over a year ago, and already one in four consumers worldwide has access to a computer with Silverlight already installed,” said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Division at Microsoft, in a statement. “Silverlight represents a radical improvement in the way developers and designers build applications on the Web. This release will further accelerate our efforts to make Silverlight, Visual Studio and Microsoft Expression Studio the pre-eminent solutions for the creation and delivery of media and rich Internet application experiences.”
And during the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing, NBCOlympics.com, powered by Silverlight, had more than 50 million unique visitors, resulting in 1.3 billion page views, 70 million video streams and 600 million minutes of video watched, increasing the average time on the site-from 3 minutes to 27 minutes-and Silverlight market penetration in the United States by more than 30 percent, Microsoft said.
“Silverlight has been a massive success,” Goldfarb said. “We aren’t going to take our foot off the pedal. There was never a question in my mind of whether we would reach ubiquity; it’s always been a question of when.”
In addition, organizations such as CBS College Sports, Blockbuster, Hard Rock Cafe International, Yahoo Japan, AOL, Toyota Motor, HSN and Tencent are building next-generation experiences using Silverlight.
“CBS College Sports Network streams more than 20,000 hours of live content annually for our 150-plus college and university official athletic partners, so we demand that our video player environment be both consumer-friendly and robust,” Tom Buffolano, general manager and vice president, Digital Programming and Subscription, CBS Interactive-Sports, said in a statement. “Silverlight was the perfect choice to help develop and power our new, exclusive online collegiate sports experience. Silverlight also gives us the most flexibility in expanding the product in the future as we develop embeddable players and mobile platforms and explore new advertising integration opportunities.”
Meanwhile, also in a statement, Keith Morrow, CIO at Blockbuster, said standout Silverlight 2 features for Blockbuster are “new rich controls such as data grids and advanced skinning capabilities, as well as support for the .NET framework,” which allows the company to access its existing Web services.
Other key features include content protection, and improved server scalability and expanded advertiser support, Goldfarb said. The enhanced content protection comes in the form of Silverlight DRM, powered by PlayReady, which provides content protection for connected Silverlight experiences, he said. In addition, Microsoft is providing new streaming and progressive download capabilities, superior search engine optimization techniques, and next-generation in-stream advertising support, Goldfarb said.