One of the questions around Silverlight, which was previously known by the clumsy name Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere, has been how Microsoft will support it with tools. Enter Expression Studio, which includes Expression Web, a Web site design tool (already available); Expression Design, a graphics editor; and Expression Media, a multimedia asset manager and editor. "The people who have been working on Silverlight have mostly been doing things in Notepad," admits Wayne Smith, group product manager for Expression Studio. Expression Blend, a user interface builder in Expression Studio, will become the design platform for Silverlight in its next iteration; Microsoft will preview that functionality at Mix 07. However, Smith says it's possible Silverlight support will be added to Expression Blend as a plug-in even before the next version.
|Microsoft's Web Interface Push|
|SILVERLIGHT Browser runtime engine; Flash competitor|
|EXPRESSION STUDIO Suite of tools for Web interface design|
|WINDOWS PRESENTATION FOUNDATION Windows Vista user interface platform|
Microsoft is catching up to competitor Adobe Systems, which acquired the Flash technology, a Web multimedia standard, when it bought Macromedia in 2006. Adobe offers both the Flash Player, a runtime multimedia engine that operates in various Web browsers, and the Flex Builder development environment. Perhaps anticipating Microsoft's competitive push, Adobe said last week it would make Flex available as open source code under the Mozilla open source license, potentially greatly expanding the community of developers committed to working with Flash.
Silverlight, Expression Studio, and Windows Presentation Foundation, the user interface technology in .Net 3.0, represent Microsoft's plays in the emerging area of dynamic interface design. Darin Brown, executive VP of global strategy at Avenue A/Razorfish, which has designed Web experiences for Coca-Cola, Nike, Toyota, and Visa, is confident that Microsoft is putting "serious weight" behind Silverlight. Having two major players in the field is good news to companies otherwise uncomfortable moving from a page-based world on the Web to one dominated by graphical, dynamic, interactive presentations, he says. "There are legions of Microsoft developers out there, so it enables a much larger base of people who can create with this stuff," Brown says. "And that will have an exponential effect in moving the industry forward."