Microsoft Launches Silverlight 4 Beta, Shares IE9 Tidbits

Microsoft shared a few details of what users can expect in Internet Explorer 9, which is only three weeks into development. The company also announced the launch of a beta release of Silverlight 4.

LOS ANGELES -- Microsoft shared a few details of what users can expect in Internet Explorer 9, which is only three weeks into development. The company also announced the launch of a beta release of Silverlight 4.

At the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) here, Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft, gave a short update on what the company has been doing in terms of beefing up performance for the IE browser and enhancing standards support. Sinofsky delivered a keynote address to the audience of developers

"We're not going to generate a hype cycle for what's not there yet," he said referring to emerging web standards such as HTML5.

However, Sinofsky said Microsoft has made some significant improvements in it compatibility with the Acid3 test of web performance and capabilities. Sinofsky said IE8 had a score of 20, and IE9 already has a score of 32.

In terms of the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) 3 standard, Sinofsky said IE9 has passed 572 out of 578 of the CSS 3 tests. Acid3 is a test page from the Web Standards Project that checks how well a web browser follows certain selected elements from web standards, especially relating to the Document Object Model and JavaScript.

In a blog post describing some of the movement with IE9, Dean Hachcamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer at Microsoft, said:

""Our focus is providing rich capabilities - the ones that most developers want to use - in an interoperable way. Developers want more capabilities in the browser to build great apps and experiences; they want them to work in an interoperable way so they don't have to re-write and re-test their sites again and again. The standards process offers a good means to that end.""

"One of the things we'll do in IE is we'll make sure you pick up the performance gains you get in modern hardware for hardware accelerated rendering."

Meanwhile, following Sinofsky in the Nov. 18 keynote, Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .Net Developer Platform, discussed Silverlight 4, the upcoming next version of Microsoft's Silverlight rich Internet application (RIA) platform, describing new features to better support media and the Web, business applications and more. Guthrie announced that a beta of Silverlight 4 is now available, and it will feature a host of new capabilities, along with Visual Studio 2010 and Microsoft's Expression design tools.

The Silverlight 4 beta comes just four months after the delivery of Silverlight 3. "We've been on a fast cadence for Silverlight releases," Guthrie said

The Silverlight 4 download can be found at

Regarding media, Microsoft is enabling webcam and microphone support in Silverlight 4, multicast streaming, full output protection and offline DRM support, Guthrie said.

Silverlight 4 will feature application development improvements such as drag and drop support, HTML hosting and more.

"With Silverlight 4 and .NET 4 it's possible to compile an assembly once and run it in both places," Guthrie said.

In addition, Microsoft has improved its capability to take Silverlight beyond the browser. "With Silverlight 4 we have even more capability for running outside the browser in a sandboxed mode," Guthrie said. "And we have a new capability to build trusted apps that run outside the sandbox." This runs on Windows and the Mac, he said.

Describing some of the new features, the Microsoft Silverlight Team Blog said top features include:

"??Ç Enhancements to Silverlight out-of-browser capabilities which enable high quality application experiences on the desktop;??Ç Advancements in business application development, including access to other Microsoft products like SharePoint 2010, Office, and Internet Information Services (IIS);??Ç The most amazing HD-quality video experiences on the Web with native multicast and offline DRM support."

Microsoft also has extended support for Google's Chrome browser with Silverlight 4. For a more complete view on the new features in Silverlight 4 look here.

Moreover, in addition to discussing IE9 and Silverlight 4, Microsoft also announced that each attendee at the PDC would receive a laptop computer that Microsoft designed as the prototype of a baseline PC for running Windows 7. Sinofsky announced the PC giveaway to thunderous applause from the audience of developers.