April 15, 2007 — Today at the 2007 National Association of Broadcasters conference (NAB2007), Microsoft Corp. unveiled Microsoft® Silverlight™, a new cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering the next generation of media experiences and rich interactive applications (RIAs) for the Web. Early supporters of the new platform include Akamai Technologies Inc., Brightcove Inc., Eyeblaster Inc., Limelight Networks, Major League Baseball and Netflix Inc.
Microsoft Silverlight, previously called Windows® Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E), integrates with existing Web technologies and assets to provide higher-quality experiences with lower costs for media delivery. Delivered to end users through a seamless, fast installation, Silverlight offers consistent experiences to both Macintosh and Windows users on a variety of browsers including Internet Explorer®, Firefox and Safari.
Microsoft’s broader development platform and additional details about Silverlight will be shared in the keynote presentation at Microsoft’s upcoming Mix07 conference, April 30 in Las Vegas. Microsoft will also release the beta for Silverlight during the Mix07 conference. More information about the Mix07 event can be found at http://www.mix07.com.
As is well known, Silverlight offers a subset of the the Windows Presentation Foundation technologies introduced with Vista along with Windows Media Video (WMV), Microsoft’s implementation of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) VC-1 video standard, combined in a runtime that will allow cross platform rich media Web applications. (See Tim Sneath’s top ten list of reasons why you might want to use Silverlight for the technical sales pitch.)
As I have observed previously, at this point Silverlight is just another browser plug-in, but Microsoft has high hopes as indicated by the extra effort they made in branding it. Not surprisingly, Adobe (the owner of Flash) cast doubts on Microsoft’s cross platform commitment.
I’ve never been a fan of the New York Times Reader for Vista since the idea of a requiring a proprietary program to read one newspaper via the Internet is ridiculous given the universality of the Web:
An uncharitable view would be that the Times staff is unacquainted with Web browsers and Web programming. On the other hand, the Times seems to have obscure notions of customer lock-in for which a proprietary newspaper reader makes a perfect match.
Microsoft liked to tout the Times reader, however, because it uses Vista’s Windows Presentation Foundation and apparently such applications are in short supply, no matter how ill-considered. It turns out however that the situation is worse than just one newspaper offering a flashy vanity application. Yesterday, Microsoft proudly announced that they are helping other newspapers to develop their own proprietary readers:
This week, three leading media companies released unique new software applications in an effort to broaden their appeal to existing and new readers. Aiming to carve out new territory in the publishing industry, the companies — Associated Newspapers Ltd., Forbes Inc. and Hearst Corp. — have developed digital reader applications that enable consumers to experience newspaper and magazine content in new and engaging ways.
The three preview reader applications, along with a fourth solution released last year by The New York Times, are at the forefront of a new wave of products. All of the applications take advantage of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), the advanced graphics technology recently unveiled by Microsoft as part of the Windows Vista operating system. In order to further assist publishers in their efforts to bring their content to the digital world, Microsoft is also developing a publisher starter kit, which will make the same product development tools and best practices easily accessible to other publishers at no cost.
The relationship with our partners was driven by their business needs, based on the confidence they felt in the technical merits of our technology as a platform for building innovative applications. We first undertook a joint development project with The New York Times, which led to the Times making TimesReader available to its subscribers as a beta release in Nov. 2006. Based on what we learned in that development effort, we began building a publisher starter kit that includes documentation and sample code for developing a more or less turnkey media reader application. The next step was to select three key international publishers — Associated Newspapers Ltd., Forbes Inc. and Hearst Corp. — to collaborate with us as alpha users of the starter kit. Our work with those companies included extensive training and support, as well as a significant amount of feedback that led to the roll out of the three additional preview applications this week. We’re now focusing on a second wave of beta testing for the starter kit, and once that’s done, we plan to make the kit available via download at no charge. The goal is to make it easy for publications and their independent software vendors (ISVs) to duplicate our efforts without Microsoft having to be directly involved.
So the idea is that to read a selection of daily newspapers or other publications online your Web browser isn’t good enough anymore – what you really you need is bag of uniquely branded WPF craplets provided by the each of the publishers aided and abetted by Microsoft. Is it April Fools Day already? While you can’t really fault Microsoft for what people do with their programming tools, they are surely to blame for encouraging these clueless folks to believe that this is a good idea.
Catching up on an item from last week – Expression Design Beta 1 and Blend Beta 2 Available:
Yey – I know several of our ISVs have been waiting patiently for these downloads. I just need to find a day to try them both out! You can beat me to it by downloading them from http://microsoft.com/expression.
eWEEK’s Darryl K. Taft interviews Forest Key, director of product management for Microsoft’s design tools, and InfoWorld’s Paul Krill interviews Eric Zocher, general manager of the Microsoft Expression product line, to provide the big picture, but the nut is that the Expression family is Microsoft’s new foray into tools for designers as opposed to all the existing tools for developers. The Expression products utilize Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF, codenamed Avalon), Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E, aka “Flash Killer” which also has a new CTP) and XAML to create the design elements for rich content Web and desktop applications.
Of course, a persistent side issue of the invidious distinction between designer and developer tools is the fact that the Expression tools are not being made available to developers through the Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN). As long as Microsoft is going to erect barriers between the two, they might as well also create a “Microsoft Designers Network” although they better use a little of that artistic creativity to avoid conflicting acronyms.
The day has finally come: Windows Vista is going gold. And the public announcement that Windows Vista has been released to manufacturing is going to happen tomorrow, November 8, around 11 a.m. PST, sources close to the company are saying.
The main course must be close, because yesterday we got the appetizers as Microsoft released the .NET Framework 3.0, Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office for the 2007 Microsoft Office system, ASP.NET AJAX and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition:
The technologies announced today include the following:
• The release to manufacturing of Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0, which provides advances for building rich, interactive client applications (Windows Presentation Foundation), communication and workflow (Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Workflow Foundation) and online identity management (Windows CardSpace).
• The availability to MSDN® Premium subscribers of Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system on release to manufacturing.
• The availability of Visual Studio 2005 extensions for the .NET Framework 3.0, a series of plug-ins and project templates that enable developers to use Visual Studio 2005 to build .NET Framework 3.0 solutions.
• The release to manufacturing of Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office for the 2007 Microsoft Office system to build solutions for the six major applications in the 2007 Microsoft Office system: Office Word, Office Excel®, Office Outlook®, Office PowerPoint®, Office Visio® and Office InfoPath®. Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office for the 2007 Microsoft Office system enables developers to build scalable, robust line-of-business applications that leverage the functionality of the 2007 Microsoft Office system.
• The release candidate of Microsoft SQL Server™ 2005 Compact Edition, a new offering for essential relational database functionality in a compact footprint. By sharing a familiar SQL Server syntax and common ADO.NET programming model with other editions of SQL Server, SQL Server Compact Edition allows developers and administrators to apply their existing skills and be immediately productive. The release candidate is available via download at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/compact.
All of the above are available now. Still in the oven however is SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2 (SP2) for which a new Community Technology Preview (CTP) was released yesterday. It’s required for Vista because, as mentioned here previously, it provides SQL Server Express Edition which replaces the Microsoft Desktop Engine (MSDE) used by some Microsoft and 3rd party applications, but which is not supported on Vista.
Ensuring Vista application compatibility isn’t glamorous, but it’s critical for rapid Vista uptake (particularly in large organizations) and Microsoft is trying to ease the pain with the release candidate of the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5 which was just posted.