Microsoft Releases Silverlight; Linux Version Coming

Silverlight 1.0 will focus mostly on audio and video, but future versions will let developers program for the Web in .Net.
Microsoft released the first version of its cross-platform, cross-browser multimedia plug-in Silverlight on Wednesday along with a number of partnerships and customers the company said it hopes will drive 200 million installations of Silverlight by the end of next May.

From its outset, Silverlight should help Microsoft find a new foothold in Web interface design and compete with Adobe Flash in the emerging area of rich Internet applications.

"Our expectations for compelling, immersive experiences on the Web are increasing daily," Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, said in a statement. Silverlight 1.0 will focus mostly on audio and video, but future versions will let developers program for the Web in .Net and may find themselves powering the user interfaces for Microsoft's own Web properties.

(See our review: Microsoft Silverlight: New Competition For Flash)

Silverlight's initial -- and perhaps final -- success will hinge heavily on content, especially if it's to assault the strong position of the almost ubiquitous Adobe Flash. Microsoft said it won't use Windows Update to push Silverlight out to consumers, instead relying on content providers and

"The key thing is the types of experiences customers are building with Silverlight," said Brian Goldfarb, Microsoft's group product manager for the developer division's platform and tools strategy, in an interview.

Major League Baseball and Fox Movies already have announced their intent to use Silverlight for streaming video, and Microsoft announced Wednesday that it was adding Entertainment Tonight, The Home Shopping Network, Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment and video sharing site to the roster of Silverlight content providers.

To that end, Entertainment Tonight will be creating Silverlight-based sites highlighting the "Emmy Awards" and other future events, HSN will use Silverlight for a live stream of its cable television network, the WWE will use Silverlight as a portal for wrestling videos and will launch a video search tool with a user experience based on the technology. also will launch some Silverlight content, including a high-definition trailer for Halo that has already been using a test version of Silverlight.

Going forward, the company also has the potential to use Silverlight to create a better user experience for many of its Windows Live applications. Last month, for example, the company released a Silverlight-powered search tool built on top of Live Search called Tafiti.

"Microsoft is making big bets on this technology," Goldfarb said, adding that the company will make several Silverlight-related announcements over the next year. The fact that Microsoft chief software architect is quoted in the press release announcing Silverlight's availability also should be an indication that Silverlight is being given serious attention at the highest levels of the company.

Microsoft also announced Wednesday that in reaction to customer demand it will be working with Novell to create and support a version of Silverlight that will run on Linux. The level of Microsoft's support of Novell in this project over the coming months could serve as an indicator for how much Microsoft is committed to interoperability with Linux, which the company has touted repeatedly this year. Novell's Silverlight implementation, known as Moonlight, is currently in an early test version and should be out in the next six months, Goldfarb said. Microsoft already is offering a version of Silverlight for the Macintosh operating system.

Though Wednesday's announcement is about Silverlight 1.0, Microsoft also is hard at work on Silverlight 1.1, which will add a significant amount of power to create new online experiences beyond video and audio by supporting Microsoft's .Net programming languages. In May, Microsoft architect evangelist Alexander Strauss posted a possible release date for Silverlight of next spring on his blog, but Goldfarb said Microsoft's now on track to have Silverlight 1.1 out by next summer.

Along with Silverlight itself, Microsoft Wednesday released a Silverlight encoding and publishing tool called Expression Encoder 1.0. The company has Silverlight-related plug-ins for both its developer and designer product suites, Visual Studio and Expression Studio, respectively, and is offering a hosting service called Silverlight Streaming for developers to create Silverlight content and stream it directly from Microsoft Web servers.

Microsoft also launched a partner initiative around Silverlight with more than 35 partners signed up to support the technology, including content delivery networks like Akamai and Limelight, design agencies, software and hardware vendors and systems integrators. Notably absent from the announcement were cable companies and major broadcasting networks.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Shane Snider, Senior Writer, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author