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Software // Enterprise Applications
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9/11/2007
09:05 AM
Nelson King
Nelson King
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The Road Ahead for Microsoft Silverlight

Last week, Microsoft released version 1.0 of Silverlight, a developer's technology for creating Rich Internet Applications with a focus on streaming media or vector graphics... For many corporations, Web apps that blend streaming media or even rich graphics are an exotic species. However, as many of the new stars of Web 2.0 are demonstrating (YouTube, Google Maps, et al), the incorporation of slick graphics is becoming de rigueur, which means enterprise business will follow.

Stuff crosses your desk, so to speak. I'm not sure what this means in the Internet age, but simply put, pieces of information come to your attention and usually leave attention quickly. For example, on Wednesday, September 5, there was an e-mail blurb about Microsoft releasing version 1.0 of Silverlight. I don't know how many IT managers and developers are following Silverlight. Perhaps not many. Certainly a 1.0 release of anything, even (or especially) from Microsoft, rarely warrants much attention. I'm not reaching for a megaphone to amp this event, but a little soft-spoken commentary might be useful.Silverlight is a developer's technology for creating Rich Internet Applications (RIA), typically those with a focus on streaming media or vector graphics. For example, CBS Television stations will be using Silverlight to manage and present community generated video at station Web sites. To do its thing, Silverlight requires a graphics engine on the client computer, that is, a plug-in (downloaded or delivered with the OS). Other pieces of Silverlight include the means for writing code that run on the client, various codexes and conversions for media, and integration with Microsoft's emerging line of Web design and graphics creation products (the Expression suite). If this sounds a lot like Adobe's Flash, Flex, and Dreamweaver line-up, it should; Silverlight is competition.

I know that for many corporations and their IT shops, Web applications that blend streaming media or even rich graphics are still an exotic species. However, as many of the new stars of Web 2.0 are demonstrating (YouTube, Google Maps, et al), the incorporation of slick graphics and even multimedia in applications is becoming de rigueur, which means sooner or later enterprise business will follow.

As IT should know by now, Microsoft software development products are one of the pillars of its own commerce. More so than most such technologies, Silverlight represents the bright and shining future for Microsoft. By comparison .Net is foundation technology, surely important, but not bright and shining. Silverlight is the bridge between presentation technology (the UI and all the plumbing underneath) and streaming content management. This is one of the places in which Bill Gates' biggest visions are lodged.

Back in the mid 1990s, Gates and Craig McCaw dreamed of a global satellite network, Teledesic, part of the Gates' Grande Vision of linking computers with telecommunications. That part of the vision was too Grande, but Silverlight is a piece of that picture-Internet distribution of video, movies, audio, music - and the GUI builder to go with them. Microsoft will put whatever resources it takes to make Silverlight a player, not only in the RIA development market, but also among the big media (like CBS) productions.

Most of which means diddly to the average IT shop, except that Microsoft drives extra hard where Mr. Gates sees the road (even when he's not around). Silverlight may not be the vehicle of choice to get into Web 2.0 applications and streaming media, but it's not just random stuff either.

Nelson King has been a software developer for more than twenty-five years. Further complications include being a computer-industry analyst, product reviewer and author (of nine books on database programming). He's been writing for Intelligent Enterprise (and its precursors) for more than ten years. Write him at nelsonking@earthlink.netLast week, Microsoft released version 1.0 of Silverlight, a developer's technology for creating Rich Internet Applications with a focus on streaming media or vector graphics... For many corporations, Web apps that blend streaming media or even rich graphics are an exotic species. However, as many of the new stars of Web 2.0 are demonstrating (YouTube, Google Maps, et al), the incorporation of slick graphics is becoming de rigueur, which means enterprise business will follow.

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