Microsoft Ships Silverlight 2 Beta

Microsoft improves its Flash competitor and garners more support for it with a new beta release.

LAS VEGAS-Microsoft announced the beta release of its Silverlight 2 cross-browser, cross-platform rich Internet application technology at its MIX conference here on March 5.

Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .Net Developer Division at Microsoft, announced the Silverlight 2 beta release during his portion of the opening keynote at the event. Guthrie also highlighted advances in Silverlight, Expression Studio and Visual Studio that make it easier to deliver rich, connected experiences on the desktop, Web and beyond.

Guthrie said Silverlight delivers rich, cross-platform media and "zero-click" applications that match the RIA experience while bringing the robustness and power of Microsoft .Net to the browser. The Silverlight 2 beta includes new features like Deep Zoom, more than 40 new controls and a .Net base class library of functionality. Microsoft was reluctant to give a target date for when a 1.0 version of Silverlight 2 would actually ship.

In addition to the beta release, Microsoft announced plans to deliver Silverlight for Windows Mobile and to work with Nokia on support for the S60 platform on the Symbian operating system, the world's leading smart-phone software, as well as for Series 40 devices and Nokia Internet tablets. In addition, Silverlight 2 supports managed code, includes the core of the CLR (Common Language Runtime) and adds over two dozen user interface controls. Developers can download the Silverlight 2 beta and learn about Silverlight for devices here.

Guthrie said Silverlight 1.0 captured the attention of a large number of companies that sought to partner with Microsoft to add and deploy rich content on their Web sites, including NBC for the Beijing Olympics.

And over the last several months Microsoft has seen an increase in the number of Silverlight downloads, Guthrie said, and users have been downloading Silverlight to the tune of 1.5 million downloads a day. "We expect that to increase as we start rolling out Silverlight 2," he said, noting that the Silverlight 2 beta would be available for download after his March 5 keynote.

To read about Microsoft's launch of the first beta of Internet Explorer 8, also at MIX, click here.

In comparison, however, in a recent interview with Adobe Systems' chief technology officer, Kevin Lynch, Lynch said Adobe's Flash is downloaded up to 12 million times a day.

Guthrie said Silverlight 2 has seen key improvements in three areas: media support, RIA support and support for mobile devices. In terms of media support, Microsoft has improved the user experience by supporting high-definition video, improving total cost of ownership, and integrating with other platforms. Silverlight 2 also supports adaptive streaming, which assesses the capabilities of a client and adjusts the download rate based on available bandwidth.

"We made Silverlight extensible so you can not only use Microsoft's advertising offerings but also the ad offerings of others," Guthrie said.