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It's Silverlight 3, Baby!

Developers and designers converged at The Venetian in Las Vegas this week to hear more about Microsoft's Web technologies. The eclectic crowd at this hip (as far as conferences go) gathering is an interesting "mix" of creative and technical people with a common goal: building state-of-the-art Web applications.

During the opening keynote on Wednesday, Scott Guthrie talked about new Web server technologies and tools, including the highly anticipated Silverlight 3 which is now in beta with a final release expected later this year. The beta doesn't have a GoLive license.

"Silverlight 3 literally introduces thousands of new APIs, hundreds of new features, new codecs like H264, AAC, new capabilities like out-of-browser support, graphics, hardware acceleration, more and more and more -- a lot of great stuff," Guthrie said.

RDN columnist Andrew Brust (now writing for Visual Studio Magazine) attended the keynote in Vegas. He e-mailed his take on the Silverlight 3 announcements:

"It really does seem like a classic Microsoft version 3.0 product -- there's a lot of fit and finish, and there's something for everyone. I am excited about the new data binding features shown and the small amount of code needed to get it going. I also like that they are adding deep linking and URL navigation through SL3 apps. Media folks will be excited about hardware acceleration and the new codecs that are supported. Designers will like the new graphics, animation and 3-D features."

Brust, who's a Microsoft MVP and the chief of new technology at twentysix New York, summed up his thoughts on the Silverlight portion of the keynote as follows: "Add to that the ability for SL3 apps to run outside the browser, and I think Microsoft may have a real strong play against Adobe AIR."

Developers should be able to run the same Silverlight player in and out of the browser. The out-of-browser support includes Windows and the Mac.

Microsoft also announced an Expression Blend 3.0 Preview that supports Silverlight 3. This tooling imports Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator files and offers a new "SketchFlow" component for rapid prototyping. It also adds IntelliSense for XAML, C# and Visual Basic.

For developers, there's Silverlight 3 Tools for Visual Studio 2008 (developer runtime and project templates) and Eclipse support provided by Soyatec for building Silverlight applications on Windows or the Mac.

Silverlight 3 still doesn't support printing, microphones or webcams. Guthrie said that these capabilities were being worked on.

Silverlight for Mobile was also missing from the two-and-half-hour keynote. Currently in private beta, Silverlight for Mobile will offer the exact same features; it's not a subset, according to Guthrie. No word on the anticipated timeline for the mobile release. Developers are also anxious to hear more about Silverlight for the iPhone.

During today's keynote, Microsoft GM Dean Hachamovitch highlighted the final release of IE 8 -- after a hilarious video about the history of the Internet got some laughs from the bleary Vegas audience. View it here.

Express your thoughts on the Silverlight 3 beta. Did Microsoft get it right? We saw great tools for designers during the keynote, but what about the developer tools? Comment below or contact me directly at [email protected].

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/19/2009 at 1:15 PM

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