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Silverlighting the Workplace

Conventional wisdom has it that it sometimes takes Microsoft until version 3 to get it right. And as it happens, this month the first public bits for Silverlight 3 are expected at MIX09.

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Developer Division, has blogged about the upcoming media (H.264 video) and graphics (3-D) enhancements, data binding and new controls planned in version 3. Visual Studio and Visual Web Developer Express tooling will also add support for data binding and "a fully editable and interactive designer for Silverlight," he said.

The cross-platform browser plug-in designed for rich Internet apps started to gain momentum among developers after Microsoft released version 2 last October. At the Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft released the Silverlight Toolkit on Codeplex, which contained controls in various states, utilities and documentation. The toolkit, which was updated in December, is available for free under the Microsoft Public License. The source code version includes C# code and component tests based on the Silverlight 2 unit test framework, which Microsoft released at last year's MIX.

Many third-party vendors offer Silverlight controls. This week, components vendor Infragistics Inc. is releasing NetAdvantage for Silverlight Data Visualization controls. The standalone product, which is separate from the company's NetAdvantage line of business tooling, consists of charts, maps, gauges, historical timelines and a zoombar for navigating large amounts of data.

The Silverlight 2 technology enables richer data visualizations, key performance indicators and other business intelligence-type functionality for dashboards and line of business apps, said Tony Lombardo, Infragistics' technology evangelist.
"You can create these interactive interfaces that in the past would have been very difficult or impossible to create," he said.

The ins and outs of Silverlight development is a hot topic on the lecture circuit. "New Visualizations at Work" outlines some of the issues that developers need to consider when moving beyond classic Web apps to Silverlight clients.

"I'm constantly faced with the challenge of how much ASP.NET should I be using?" said Microsoft Regional Director and Applied Information Sciences Inc. CTO Vishwas Lele. Lele added that other questions he often hears -- and that he himself grapples with -- include: "Should I be using JavaScript at this point? Should I be using Silverlight? Have we reached the usefulness limit of HTML brackets?"

Are you working with Silverlight 2 or Silverlight 3? Express your thoughts below or contact me at [email protected].

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/03/2009

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