A Look at Silverlight 5

On Dec. 2, 2010, at the Silverlight Firestarter event, we unveiled Silverlight 5. It adds more than 40 new features and enables developers to create premium media experiences and deliver rich applications across browsers, desktops and devices. In the keynote we demonstrated a number of those features, and highlighted both the developer productivity Silverlight 5 provides and the great new user experiences it enables.

Premium Media Experiences
We're seeing great adoption of Silverlight for premium media solutions. In the last few months we've seen companies like Canal+, TV2 and Maximum TV launch both live and on-demand Silverlight solutions. Silverlight 5 will enable media experiences to go even further by adding:

Hardware Video Decode: Silverlight 5 now supports GPU-accelerated video decode, which significantly reduces CPU load for HD video. Using Silverlight 5, even low-powered netbooks will be able to play back 1080p HD content.

TrickPlay: Silverlight 5 now enables variable speed playback of media content on the client with automatic audio pitch correction. This is great for training videos where you want to speed up the trainer while still understanding what he's saying.

Improved Power Awareness: Prevents screensavers from kicking in while you're watching movies, while also allowing the computer to sleep when video isn't playing.

Remote Control Support: Now built in to Silverlight 5, this allows users to control media playback with remote control devices.

Application Development
Silverlight provides a rich application development environment that enables you to build great Web-delivered applications.

Silverlight 5 delivers significant improvements for application development, including:

Data Binding and Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM): Silverlight 5 delivers significant data-binding improvements that enhance developer productivity and provide better Silverlight/Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) feature convergence. Developers can now debug data-binding expressions, set breakpoints on bindings and more easily determine errors. Implicit DataTemplates now allow templates to be created across an application to support a particular type by default. Ancestor RelativeSource bindings make it easier for a DataTemplate to bind to a property on a container control. Binding in style setters allows bindings to be used within styles to reference other properties. And a new DataContextChanged event is being introduced to make handling changes easier. Markup extensions also now support and allow code to be run at XAML parse time for both properties and event handlers, enabling cutting-edge MVVM support.

WCF RIA Services: Silverlight 5 now includes WS-Trust support. WCF RIA Services improvements include complex type support, better MVVM support and improved customization of code generation. The Silverlight 5 networking stack also supports low-latency network scenarios that enable more responsive app scenarios.

Text and Printing: Silverlight 5 delivers improved text clarity that enables crisper and cleaner text rendering, multi-column text flow and linked text containers, character and leading support, and full OpenType font support. Silverlight 5 also includes a new Postscript Vector Printing API that provides programmatic control over what you print, and enables printing richer reports and documents. Pivot functionality -- which enables developers to build amazing information-visualization experiences -- will also be built in to the Silverlight 5 SDK.

Graphics: Silverlight 5 includes immediate--mode graphics support that enables developers to take full advantage of the GPU and enables accelerated 3-D graphics support. This new support facilitates much richer data visualization scenarios. Watch the keynote (tinyurl.com/2e4c8q7) to see some really eye-popping ones.

Out of Browser: Silverlight 5 builds on the out-of-browser capabilities we introduced in previous versions. Out-of-browser applications can now create and manage child windows. Trusted out-of-browser applications can now also use P/Invoke capabilities to call unmanaged libraries and Win32 APIs. Enhanced Group Policy support enables enterprises to both lock down and open up the security sandbox capabilities of Silverlight 5 apps.

Testing Tools: We're adding automated UI testing support for Silverlight applications with Visual Studio 2010. This makes it easy to test Silverlight applications, as well as automate the functionality of them.

Performance: Silverlight 5 supports faster application startup and provides 64-bit browser support. Silverlight 5 also integrates with the new Hardware Acceleration capabilities of Internet Explorer 9, and enables hardware acceleration in windowless mode.

A Silverlight 5 beta will be available in the first half of this year, and the final release will ship in the second half of 2011. The final product and features included will be dependent on feedback and testing that comes from the beta process.

About the Author

Brad Becker is director of product management, Client Platforms, at Microsoft.

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