Microsoft Fires Silverlight Bullet at Adobe

Microsoft has rolled out alpha and beta versions of Silverlight, its recently announced RIA (rich interactive application) platform, at a keynote address at the MIX07 conference underway in Las Vegas.

As part of its strategy to flatten Adobe with is own iteration of flash technology, Microsoft has configured Silverlight, essentially a a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in, to deliver the next generation of .Net-based media applications and content.

Microsoft also announced support for such languages as Python and Ruby, along with integration and new tooling, in both the Expression Studio and the next edition of Visual Studio — code-named “Orcas.”

Core Component

Only a few weeks in the public eye, it is clear that Silverlight has already become a core component of Microsoft’s integration plans.

“Silverlight is an important aspect of our software-plus-services strategy focused on delivering great user experiences that span the Web, the PC and mobile devices,” Ray Ozzie, chief software architect for Microsoft, stated.

“It does so, in part, by bridging technical barriers that previously made it difficult for Web developers and designers to collaborate. As a result, Silverlight will play an important role in helping advance the Web with a platform for creating rich, interactive experiences.”

Among the components available for download or now shipping:

  • Microsoft Silverlight 1.0 beta, which enables developers and designers to use Visual Studio and Expression Studio tools to deliver media experiences and rich interactive applications, and can work with any back-end Web platform or technology. It can integrate with existing infrastructure and applications, including Apache and PHP, as well as JavaScript and XHTML on the client. Beta 1.0 includes a go-live license, which means customers can deploy their Silverlight applications in production. Final availability of Microsoft Silverlight 1.0 is scheduled for summer 2007.
  • Microsoft Silverlight 1.1 Alpha, based on the .Net Framework, which offers broader tools and language support. It enables developers to take advantage of support for .Net features including ASP.Net Ajax and language-integrated query (LINQ) language, with IntelliSense editing enabled for client and server code; cross-platform debugging capabilities; and language support for JavaScript, Visual Basic, C#, Python and Ruby.
  • Expression Studio, Microsoft’s end-to-end tools for creative designers, boosts collaboration with developers in the delivery of next-generation user experiences for Windows, the Web and beyond.
  • Microsoft Silverlight Streaming, a new companion service for developers and designers to deliver and scale rich media as part of their Silverlight applications.

Open Source Rumors

In addition to these developments, rumors are circulating that Microsoft might open source certain parts of Silverlight. This possibility, first suggested in a report by IDG News, has sparked a discussion in the open source community about a) whether Microsoft will truly go ahead with such a plan, and b) what benefits might accrue to the open source community if it does.

“Microsoft [and] Sun Microsystems have been indulging in some strange open source strategic moves,” said James Bottomley, a Linux subsystem maintainer and vice president and chief technology officer at SteelEye.

“Sun has come to the conclusion it needs to embrace open source,” Bottomley told LinuxInsider, “but Microsoft is not quite as far down that road yet.”

One reason the rumors may indeed be true, he speculated, is that open source has reliably stimulated interest in the development community.

“Now, the best way to get mind share is to go open source,” Bottomley said. “Perhaps Microsoft is beginning to recognize this, even though it has also been very successful in building developer communities around its closed source systems.”

Adobe in Its Sights

Another factor that may be prompting Microsoft to open source its new application is its rivalry with Adobe.

“Adobe feels threatened about Microsoft’s products in general,” Roger Kay, principal with Endpoint Technoglogies, told LinuxInsider.

Indeed, Adobe recently opened its Flex platform — an aggressive move for a company that is hoping to see more developers flock to its product line.

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