Silverlight 4 Beta Launched

Scott Guthrie weathered a few demo-day glitches to produce an informative and well-targeted Day 2 keynote. Guthrie dove into details of the upcoming Silverlight 4, which he announced went to beta today and is available for immediate download. The final version of Silverlight 4 is scheduled to ship in the first half of 2010 Guthrie said.

The next version of Microsoft's rich Internet application platform will also add a host of long-requested capabilities, including programmatic printing support, programmatic access to the clipboard, rich text editing, and support for mouse wheel input for all standard Silverlight controls.

Perhaps most compelling was the addition of local file system access and out-of-browser execution. These enhancements, which help bring Silverlight up to par with Adobe AIR framework, drew a round of applause from the PDC audience. That capability will enable devs to assign an application as trusted, enabling it to gain access to local system resources. When run on the client, the Silverlight app will throw a dialog box requesting system access, Guthrie said.

"This mode works on both Windows and the Mac. All developers need to do is add a checkbox that says the app is trusted," Guthrie said. "You have local file system access. You can now read and write from the file system."

Guthrie, in typical fashion, kept the hits coming. He mixed slow, somewhat entertaining demos with rapid-fire feature descriptions.

Also coming in Silverlight 4 is drag and drop support, as well as drop target support to enable streaming of selected files. Silverlight 4 will allow developers to host HTML as a control within applications, providing the ability to interact with HTML elements. Guthrie showed a demo of a Web page background image and later a streaming video that was broken into jigsaw puzzle pieces. Both image and . He later double-down on this demo, show a streaming video broken into jigsaw pieces.

Silverlight 4 promises to improve performance, Guthrie said. The next version will take full advantage of the just in time (JIT) Common Language Runtime (CLR) compiler in .NET, potentially doubling performance of processor intensive applications. Improvements to Silverlight startup will also significantly speed app loading, while the Profiler API will provide much improved app optimization for developers. This announcement drew a round of applause as well.

The next version of Silverlight adds support for the Google Chrome browser, even as it provides heightened integration with the .NET stack. Silverlight 4 provides support for RIA Services, which now uses Windows Communication Foundation at its core to enable more robust applications.

The latest version of Silverlight 4 also improves the media handling capability of the platform. Silverlight 4 adds multicast streaming to enable delivery of media to tens of thousands of clients without crushing the network. Guthrie also demoed integrated Web cam and microphone support, which provides access to interactive graphical effects. He also showed how a barcode app integrates with the Silverlight Web cam to scan a barcode pattern on a book and immediately bring up the price for the book at several online stores.

Silverlight 4 looks like a winner. Devs have long complained about issues large and small with Silverlight, from lack of mouse wheel support to the need to add printer output to the inability to access local system resources and run outside of the sandboxed browser environment. Silverlight 4 looks to put an end to those complaints, and seems to position the platform for use as a mainstream line of business development and delivery platform.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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