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Microsoft Pushes Silverlight For Businesses

With Silverlight Blueprint for SharePoint, Microsoft aims to bring rich Internet apps to enterprises.

Microsoft wants its Silverlight browser plug-in to bring rich Internet apps to enterprises. The company announced Monday that it would be offering sample code to take advantage of Silverlight in SharePoint.

"As enterprises are looking at the consumerization of IT, the things they see outside the enterprise, they want in-house," Rob Curry, a director of SharePoint for Microsoft, said in an interview. "They still want the ability to manage and archive the content, but they want that rich user experience and this allows that to happen."

The sample code Microsoft is releasing later this week, Silverlight Blueprint for SharePoint, includes sample Web parts, which are like widgets for SharePoint sites. Those include a sample active directory look-up app, a picture viewer, and an app that could be used to view e-learning videos, as well as some controls. Microsoft anticipates companies might use Silverlight for other rich media needs such as business intelligence visualizations.

The Silverlight Blueprint will become available on Wednesday, when Microsoft may also announce the first beta version of Silverlight 2.0 at the company's MIX conference. Silverlight 2.0 includes a trimmed down version of the .Net Framework, so Microsoft anticipates developers should be able to create a wide variety of Web applications to run on Silverlight.

Though the company is only today announcing a set of Silverlight reference code for SharePoint, it already has a few customers using Silverlight on SharePoint, including General Mills, which is using Silverlight for enterprise content management. For example, General Mills' Silverlight applet brings up a customized visualization of SharePoint search results, which includes in-line playing of corporate video and pop-ups of employees who might have expertise related to a specific search.

Microsoft has some stiff competition from Adobe in the rich Internet apps space, which includes Adobe's Flash and AIR runtimes. Last week, Adobe released the first version of AIR, and said that Business Objects and Nasdaq had created business-focused apps that use the AIR platform, which unlike Silverlight, doesn't require a browser.

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