Silverlight 2.0 Releases Today – Prior to PDC

Microsoft’s very own Scott Guthrie, along with Brian Goldfarb, announced the release of Silverlight 2 yesterday. Along with the release that should be available as of this morning is also the release of the Visual Studio tools for Silverlight that are supported in Visual Studio 2008 as well as the Visual Web Developer Express Edition. Expression Studio will also support Silverlight 2 by using a Service Pack that is also being released.

They also announced Microsoft support to fund a project with Soyatec, a member of the Eclipse foundation, to move advanced Silverlight capabilities into the Eclipse IDE. This is being released as a preview today under the Eclipse public license version 1.0 on SourceForge. This will start with Windows support, but the hope is that this will also migrate to the Mac and Linux platforms.

What was not announced was support for Visual Studio 2005 for the Visual Studio Silverlight tools. If you have Visual Studio 2005, you’ll need to upgrade, or you’ll need to use the freely available Web Developer 2008 Express Edition.

I recently commented that it was confusing knowing what version was current in regard to Silverlight. Although 1.0 was the previous release, the prereleases for Silverlight 2 have been out for quite a while. More confusing is the fact that the earlier pre-releases were versioned as 1.1, but were later renamed due to the amount of change that was being made from version 1.0. As of now, the answer to the question “what is the current fully released version of Silverlight” is 2.0.

Customers have been using Silverlight early releases since around March. The Olympics used Silverlight 2 to stream video for this year’s games in August. All videos were available at up to 1.5 megabits, and it worked. The people who watched Silverlight video on the CBS site averaged a visit time of 27 minutes – which is a large amount of time to retain viewers on a single site.

The Democratic National Convention was also streamed with Silverlight 2’s beta. Later this month, there will be a lot of other customers; for example, the CBS College Network will be going live with additional Silverlight 2 sites. Blockbuster also will be going live with their movie link system. Yahoo! Japan has already gone live with video built on Silverlight 2. Toyota, Hard Rock CafC), and others also are going live soon with Silverlight 2.

The download size of Silverlight 2 is still at a 4.5-megabyte download size, which can be downloaded in about 10 seconds on many machines that don’t already have it. This is roughly the same size as Silverlight 1.0’s download that shipped about 12 months ago.

Based on Microsoft’s studies, developers believe that about 1 in 4 consumers have access to a machine that has Silverlight installed. In some countries, deployment rates are over 50%. They expect to see this increase. Customers who have Silverlight 1 or who have the Silverlight 2 beta will be upgraded as a part of a standard upgrade process. Those consumers won’t have to take any action as they will be automatically upgraded (Scott Guthrie stated that the EULA allows this). As such, according to Guthrie, Microsoft expects to see hundreds of millions of machines with Silverlight 2 in a short period of time.

Features of Silverlight 2.0

No features have been cut from the final release of Silverlight 2. What it provides is more than the very basic media plug-in that 1.0 provided. In version 2, adaptive streaming has been added for much smoother video experiences.

A cross-platform subset of the .NET programming framework has also been added. The version in Silverlight is compatible with the full version of .NET. This allows any .NET programming language to be used to create Silverlight applications – applications that are cross-platform compatible that can be thousands of times faster than pure JavaScript applications, and more.

There is a very rich UI support in 2.0. This includes support for data grids, calendar controls, sliders, data-time pickers, text boxes, buttons, and more. This allows developers to create more robust web applications. Control skinning and templating are supported also. A rich networking stack also is supported to make calling supporting web services easy as well as connections to sockets, HTTP, and more.

Features such as Deep Zoom are also built into Silverlight 2.0. This gives you smooth zooming capabilities within your graphic image displays without intense graphic processing requirements.

Silverlight Openness and Interoperability

Brian Goldfarb talked about Microsoft’s moves to help make Silverlight open and interoperable. This included announcing the Eclipse support mentioned earlier as well as two other areas.

First, Microsoft is releasing the XAML Silverlight vocabulary language under the Open Specification Promise (OSP). This includes releasing documents, specifications, and legal protections for people in the community to read and write the XAML language. This was done with the WPF XAML language as well, so that anyone can use these languages.

Second, Microsoft also is releasing the Silverlight Control Pack that contains eleven controls today. This will be released on CodePlex under the Microsoft open source (OSI approved) license. I believe that the controls currently include are the Accordion, AutoComplete, DockPanel, Expander, HeaderedContentControl, Label, NumericUpDown, TreeView, ViewBox, and the WrapPanel. This control pack is expected to extend to over 50 or more controls in the coming months or years. This will include the source code and you’ll be able to derive from these controls. It also includes four new skins for the controls.

Silverlight 2.0 is strides ahead of Silverlight’s first release. In fact, many might state that it is close enough to begin working with today rather than waiting for a third version. With an adoption rate of around one in four after only a year of release in the consumer market, Silverlight is on the right course. Of course, Flash is at a nearly 100% adoption rate, so Microsoft still has a way to go.

What’s After Silverlight 2.0?

When asked about the next release of Silverlight, Scott Guthrie commented that Microsoft is has a lot of features planned, but that these will be building on what was done in 2.0. Microsoft believes its built a good foundation that their developers will be able to expand upon. Of course, nothing about the next release is being announced today!

One thing I would like to mention is that at MIX 08, Microsoft announced they would be supporting mobile devices. At that time, they also announced that they were working with Nokia to support Silverlight on the Symbian operating system. This support is not currently in the 2.0 release, but is still in the works.

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