Microsoft Rocks the Web at MIX09

Microsoft delivers a slew of new Web development and design technologies at its MIX09 show. As part of the company's push to enable a richer Web experience, Microsoft released Silverlight 3 beta and Expression Blend 3 Preview, and continued progress in the cloud with updates to the Azure Services Platform.

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft bolstered its appeal to Web developers and designers with a host of new and updated Web technologies announced at its MIX09 Web development conference.

Experience was the word of the day in the opening keynote from both Bill Buxton, principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of Microsoft's .Net Developer Division, said organizations that create more intuitive, more engaging experiences on the Web are able to reduce costs and increase sales.

Moreover, Microsoft demonstrated a series of technologies to enable developers to deliver a rich, interactive presence on the Web. As part of the company's push to enable a richer Web experience, Microsoft released Silverlight 3 beta and Expression Blend 3 Preview, and continued progress in the cloud with updates to the Azure Services Platform. The company also pointed to strong momentum in platform adoption and demonstrated a number of solutions from key partners including Netflix, Bondi Digital Publishing,, KEXP and NBC.

Perkins Miller, senior vice president of digital media at NBC Sports, came onstage and announced that NBC will be working with Microsoft to use Silverlight 3 to stream the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics.

"Silverlight 3 significantly ups the ante for what you can do with graphics on the Web," Guthrie said.

Silverlight 3 helps rich Internet application (RIA) developers work faster with new graphics, animation and 3-D features, and more than 60 controls. Silverlight 3 also ushers in a new generation of high-quality and high-definition video experiences with true high-definition video in full-screen mode, with stutter-free live and on-demand video, Microsoft said. Silverlight 3 also gives users more video format choices than ever before, including H.264, along with enhancements such as deep linking, to improve navigation in Silverlight content and automate search engine optimization (SEO) tasks. Silverlight 3 also enables developers to create lightweight Web application experiences that can exist outside the browser. This enables Websites to deliver more persistent relationships with their customers, Microsoft said.

Microsoft also announced Expression Blend 3 Preview, designed to dramatically improve designer and developer workflow and productivity. In the MIX09 keynote address, Microsoft demonstrated SketchFlow, a new capability that allows designers to quickly prototype the flow and composition of applications. Now, for the first time, designers can easily receive annotated feedback on prototypes from stakeholders and rapidly iterate on a project from concept to completion. In addition, Expression Blend directly supports the import of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files (including layers and paths), integration of live preview sample data, and a comprehensive set of rich behaviors, the company said.

Silverlight has made significant progress since it was launched at MIX07, Guthrie said. Hundreds of thousands of developers and designers are using Silverlight, and leading organizations such as AOL, eBay, BSkyB, Netflix, CBS Sports Online, the European Commission,, Samsung Electronics and Yahoo Japan are building their next-generation rich applications and media experiences using Silverlight.

Kevin McEntee, vice president of Web engineering at Netflix, addressed the MIX crowd and said, "A year ago we started looking at Silverlight as a means of getting the Netflix streaming service on the Mac... Now we're looking forward to Silverlight 3. Netflix is very happy with Silverlight. We started out on the Mac and wound up with all our computer-based players using Silverlight and we're also looking at it for our device-based players."

"Netflix chose Silverlight because it makes a faster and more agile development environment possible, allowing Netflix to quickly deliver a superior instant watching experience to our subscribers," said Steve Swasey, vice president of corporate communications at Netflix, in a statement. "When Netflix deployed Silverlight last fall, Netflix members realized a richer experience of access and quality to instantly watch movies and TV episodes from Netflix on their PCs and, for the first time, were able to instantly watch the same content on their Intel-based Macintosh computers."