Wednesday, September 26, 2007 6:09 AM
of something new....
Microsoft have recently released Silverlight, a rather funky new Adobe Flash/Shockwave killer.
I am particularly impressed with what I saw yesterday at Microsoft in Reading,UK. What follows is a high level overview of what Silverlight is and is capable of.
What is it?
Silverlight is a slimmed down lightweight web-based version
of the Windows Presentation Foundation that is cross-browser and
cross-platform. It fills a gap in
Microsoft’s product line for providing an engaging experience across multiple
browsers and platforms allowing for richer interactive applications being
provided to a much broader set of platforms and browsers.
If you were to compare it with existing products it would
probably be most like Adobe Shockwave (what was once Macromedia
Shockwave)… Since I have been out of
touch with Shockwave for a while I can’t say how similar it is right now. E.g.
Silverlight can integrate with Web Services... I don’t know if Shockwave can do
Here is a brief
summary of Silverlight’s features…
Render video across multiple browsers and
platforms without using a specific media player
Full HD quality support for full screen viewing
Supports progressive download and buffering
Silverlight optimises video
Media support is VC1, WMA, MP3
Video streaming in version 1.1 in a few months
ASP .NET, AJAX and Silverlight can all
interoperate with each other
Definitions of objects are in XAML
to handle Silverlight events
Communication with web services
Lightweight plug-in, no requirement on web
server, placed on page using HTML object tags
Controls can be defined in a separate library
using XAML & C#
Examples of possible
Movie Trailers website
Plane ticket booking system with very easy to
use and pretty interface (drag & drop)
Data visualisation, graphing
Sweet interface to using a search engine see www.tafiti.com – very nice (try searching for something)
Pretty menus for applications or the entire application
Windows XP, 2003, Vista (2000 will be in 1.1)
Novell (Moonlight not yet released by Novell but
Version 1.1 additional features that are not in 1.0 - (1.1
will be a fully compatible superset of 1.0)
It is worth noting that version 1.1 is currently in Alpha and won’t be
available for a few months yet.
Default Controls, set of definitions e.g.
buttons (currently you have to make your own; not that hard though – can be
defined in a separate library using XAML & C#)
Lightweight .NET framework CLR called CoreCLR
(bare essence of the framework, exact contents still being worked out)
Larger plug-in download due to CLR ; still very
small though – currently 1.0 is around 1MB, likely to be around 4MB for 1.1,
but depends on what they keep & throw out between now & release date
for the CLR)
Dynamic Language Runtime; client-side support
within the plug-in for dynamic languages such as Python(currently the most advanced), Ruby, Dynamic VB, C#,
it’s own right like the .NET CLR)
…there are others but these are the most
Tools that are available for working with Silverlight are as
Expression Design (for drawing stuff)
Visual Studio 2008 beta 2 with Silverlight tools
installed (for coding; XAML and C#)
Expression Blend 2 September Preview (for
animation and blending the drawings with the code, also worth noting is that
the results of Expression Design is XAML so that if you copy and paste between
Design and Blend it pastes XAML which generates the images) ; blend can open or
generate a Visual Studio 2008 solution which can then be continually edited by
Blend and VS or vice versa, generated in VS and then opened in Blend
Expression Encoder (for transcoding videos to be
Silverlight optimised from any format)
I think this is a very cool piece of technology and has the
ability to provide some very neat interfaces, especially in version 1.1 when
you will be able to host .Net apps within the plug-in. I think this is the beginning of something very good. It's about time some competition appeared to take on Adobe Flash and Shockwave. Although they are ok as solutions, they are painful to use when contrasted against this new tech from MS. I hope to use this for funky menus in Sharepoint and for data visualisation.
It is worth also noting that MS are currently offering free hosting at silverlight.live.com, apparently there can be charges though if your site becomes very succesfull and has large hit counts.
Another handy resource is silverlight.net
Have fun lighting up the world with silvery shiny things...........