Microsoft Demos New Silverlight Capabilities

Microsoft wants Silverlight to be a rich interactive application environment you can bank on -- literally.

The software giant demonstrated for the first time an application based on its Silverlight RIA platform that portends how banks might bring their online banking sites into the Web 2.0 era.

Joseph Cleaver, platform strategy advisor for Microsoft's financial services business, gave the Silverlight demo at the Web Services/SOA on Wall Street Conference on Feb. 11 in New York.

Search Visualization
The demonstrations use the graphical model of Tafiti, Microsoft's experimental search interface. Tafiti, described as "search visualization," renders results through visual icons (newspaper, phonebook, feeds, Web and images) that rotate on what looks like a dish or half-sphere. The demos showed how consumers and bank employees alike might access information within the context of banking transactions.

Cleaver described it as a 360-degree view, which allows individuals to customize how data is presented, using visual cues to represent certain operations -- for example, using video pop-ups. "There's different ways to present data," he said during the demonstration. "It's a really nice way to navigate."

In a separate demo showing how a company might deploy 401(k) self-service applications, a video pop-up gave a tutorial on various investment options. It wasn't all just pretty pictures, though. Cleaver showed how a customer or bank employee may perform calculations, such as the implications of trying to make larger mortgage payments or dragging away information that the user doesn't want to see.

Investing in RIA
One of the two banking demos also included some code based on Silverlight 2.0, which is now available to a small number of testers and is expected to drop around next month's MIX08 conference in Las Vegas.

Silverlight 2.0 is the new name to what was until recently known as Silverlight 1.1. It adds support for a subset of .NET including scaled-down versions of the Common Language Runtime, Base Class Libraries, Language Integrated Query and Windows Presentation Foundation.

The banking and 401k demos were aimed at showing banks and investment firms how they can target Gen Y customers, who Cleaver says have come to expect richer user interfaces with streaming media.

"It's really more about having retail brokerages and banks think about what the experience could be as they look to revamp their online channels, especially around the user experience," Cleaver said in an interview. "There are some different things that you could do to create a really rich user interaction and different technologies that you could use to help create that."

In the session, Cleaver said Silverlight should be easy for any .NET developers to embrace, regardless of their experience using the RIA technology. "That's the beauty of .NET," he said. "It's familiar tools, familiar language -- [and] the ramp-up time is really light." Cleaver also touted Silverlight's support for multiple languages, browsers and platforms.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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