Microsoft Sees Olympic Gold and Silverlight

Opinion: Delivering 3,600 hours of live and on-demand video for is a big win and another step toward legitimacy in a Flash market.

Microsoft has been taking heat for promoting its Silverlight technology. And along with the heat Microsoft also is racking up some customer wins.

At the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 6, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announced an exclusive agreement with the NBC network where NBC will deliver on MSN, and the video, more than 3,000 hours of free, live and on-demand content, will be powered by Silverlight, Microsoft's cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering high-quality video experiences on the Web.

"We'll take the 3,600 hours of all the different events and we'll make it available live, on demand, and let you customize," Gates said of the Olympics content.

The deal with NBC around the summer Olympics is a good win for Microsoft.

Yet, recently, Microsoft has been weathering claims that the company is indeed "desperate" for using its Web properties to promote Silverlight, a competitive technology to Adobe's ubiquitous Flash.

I don't know that it's particularly desperate to want to promote your own stuff—Microsoft's effort to push Silverlight via redesigned Microsoft Web sites seems like a natural thing to do.

First off, Microsoft is phasing in support for Silverlight—hitting select locations, but not the entire site.

Microsoft unveiled a preview of its redesigned Download Center with Silverlight in November ( The company sent e-mails Jan. 3 to some folks to visit the beta of the revamped Download Center and directed to

This is merely the Download Center and not the entire site. Microsoft has been exploring the use of Silverlight on its homepage since the Silverlight launch—with campaigns such as Halo3, SceneIT, PageGate on MSDN, TechNet,,, and properties—and company officials say we can expect to see more of this.

"Microsoft is very committed to Silverlight and is planning to continue to incorporate Silverlight into its properties over time," Brian Goldfarb, group product manager in the developer division at Microsoft, told eWEEK. "However, there's some confusion. Incorporating Silverlight doesn't mean a complete replacement of a site or that Microsoft is abandoning HTML, but an opportunity to add richness to a site where needed whether it is media integration, interactivity, advertising and more."

Moreover, "The Download Center is not the first Microsoft site to leverage Silverlight—MSDN and TechNet,,, the Halo3 campaign, etc. have all used the technology," Goldfarb said. "In addition to this usage, a growing list of customers like, Paramount—for the Jackass 2.5 pre-release, ETonline and HSN are adopting Silverlight, and this is just the beginning."

Silverlight is a nascent technology that has a lot of ground to cover to even come up in the same conversation as Flash with a broad majority of users. So Microsoft's doing what it can to seed the technology.

"We see it [Silverlight] as the runtime that will let people do new media experiences," Gates said in his keynote to open the CES show on Jan. 6. "It brings the design world and the rich development tools world together on top of a great runtime that we will make pervasive."

As I said, the NBC and Beijing Olympics deal is big for Microsoft and Silverlight. But it's also a long ways off, as the Olympics open in August. Like the phased approach to introducing Silverlight on the Microsoft Web properties, taking a long-term view and targeting deals like the 2008 Olympics does not smack of desperation to me.

Check out's Application Development Center for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.