Silverlight, Microsoft's would-be Flash-killer, took center stage at Microsoft's Mix conference on Monday as the company released a beta test release and chief software architect Ray Ozzie made his appearance at the Microsoft developer conference.
Along with the Silverlight beta, Microsoft said Silverlight would include support for the .Net development platform, labeling Silverlight a "powerful extension of .Net." The company also announced Silverlight Streaming, a service that will allow Silverlight developers to upload content to be served from Microsoft's own servers. In non-Silverlight news, Microsoft announced it is at long last shipping Expression Studio, a suite of tools for designers, and will support Silverlight in Visual Studio and Expression Studio.
According to Ozzie, the world of applications is a spectrum from "universal Web applications" that demand the absolute broadest of reach and are typically deployed in browsers to "experience first applications" that are highly interactive, need to work in an offline mode, and/or are used in conjunction with devices and other applications. While Microsoft technologies like the full .Net framework have long targeted "experience first," Silverlight is Microsoft's entry into the "universal Web" space.
In his keynote, Ozzie focused on the idea of software plus services, the notion that the world of software won't be exclusively Web-based or client-based, but a mixture of both. "Of course, it is thought provoking to listen to the extreme viewpoint, no more software," he said, digging a bit at the likes of Salesforce.com's "no software" slogan. "But I've been through five software transitions, and the pendulum did swing, but the best solutions were integrated solutions that would bring together the best of one world with the best of the other. Where will you and I end up at the end of the game? We'll end up with a mixture."
In order to support that mixture, Microsoft has begun what Ozzie called a "sea change" that includes investment in the services world. For example, Microsoft today announced a set of APIs to allow developers to create applications that interact with Microsoft services like Windows Live Spaces, Virtual Earth, and Live Search. "These services are now composable and syndicateable and they're now woven into a number of other Microsoft services," Ozzie said.
He added that Microsoft is using all of these early announcements, including Silverlight, to build toward a "platform" that makes it easy for people to deploy, build, and manage.
"People are cranking out very substantial things that need time to gestate before we open them up for consumption," Ozzie said. "The staging of these more foundational investments is highly intentional. Before we introduce them at scale, each one of them will be iteratively defined."
For example, Ozzie said that people should consider Microsoft's service for hosting and streaming Silverlight apps should be seen as a "sign of things to come" in Microsoft's services platform, a potential hint that Microsoft could announce a future competitor to Amazon's S3 web hosting and cloud storage platform. Ozzie was scheduled to return to the stage at the end of the morning keynote, much of which was taken up by technical details and demonstrations by Scott Guthrie, a Microsoft general manager.
Microsoft also announced customers who have already begun to buy into Silverlight, including CBS Television Stations and Netflix, which will base its streaming media on the technology.
"It's really about creating a simple experience and getting movies to our customers faster than ever," said Neil Hunt, the Netflix's chief product officer. CBS announced a new user-generated video site based on Silverlight.