Microsoft has released Silverlight 3, the latest version of their rich media application platform which rivals Adobe Flash. In addition, a release candidate of Expression Blend 3, the Silverlight development tooling, has also been released with a promise of the full Expression 3 family of Web development products shipping within 30 days.
You can hit the websites for Silverlight or the Expression family or the combination for much more detail, but Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie offers a succinct summary of what is new. My choices for the high points:
Silverlight 3 enables applications to run outside the browser and taken offline. Users can safely install web applications on their computers, and create persistent shortcuts to them on the desktop, start menu and taskbar (this is supported on both Windows and the Mac).
Silverlight 3 now supports hardware graphics acceleration and HD video. IIS Media Services is a free server product that complements Silverlight and provides the ability to efficiently stream media over HTTP. It enables both on-demand and live HD video to be delivered using “smooth streaming” – which is an adaptive streaming algorithm that can deliver video at bitrates optimized for a client’s network conditions and CPU capabilities.
Free download that enables Silverlight 3 development support for VS 2008 and the free Visual Web Developer 2008 Express.
The latter has the potential to really explode Silverlight adoption by placing the bar to entry very low. On the other hand, I found the IIS Media Services demo to be anything but smooth streaming.
Finally, per Scott Guthrie, "Expression Studio 3 will be included as part of the MSDN Premium and higher subscriptions (meaning MSDN Premium customers don’t have to pay anything extra to get all of the Expression Studio products). " This apparently ends the furor over whether developers with MSDN subscriptions should get access to "designer" tools as part of the subscription.
Visual Studio 2008 and .NET FX 3.5 were released last November and it’s a little early for a service pack (which has been in beta since May), but Microsoft apparently had some things to fix beyond the usual:
Microsoft’s "milestone" first-service pack for Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5 has been released as the company shows concern over growing code bloat.
SP1 certainly offers a radical diet for .NET’s weight problem: it introduces the .NET Framework Client Profile for client-side applications. The Profile cuts by 85 per cent the amount of code you’ll need to run a Windows Vista-looking application on a machine that can only stretch to Windows XP. It’s designed to improve download and start-up times.
SP 1 comes less than a year after the launch of Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5. It has been released, though, as further evidence has emerged that Microsoft is concerned over the number of .NET Framework libraries, as product groups converge on a single framework.
SD Times claims to have seen a Microsoft memo that pointed to the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and ADO.NET entity framework as particular causes for concern. Tellingly, the .NET Framework Client Profile includes the WPF and WCF.
The report follows our own recent conversation with the general manager for Microsoft’s presentation platforms and tools team Ian Ellison-Taylor, who said on the client: ".NET got a little big – it was a victim of its own success"
However, the idea of using deployment specific profiles to lessen the extraneous baggage comes with the risk of additional complexity for developers.
There’s also a hidden problem for those building .NET applications. Already, a lot of people are angry at the fact they have to download different version numbers of the .NET Framework on their machines to build and test applications. Imagine how messy it could get in a world of multiple profiles, all of them running different version numbers.
So far there is only the .NET Framework Client Profile, of course, but human nature abhors a singleton. More details on the conventional enhancements and a download link are available in the MSDN overview.
Bill Gates made a valedictory appearance at this year’s TechEd and along with a Steve Ballmer robot had some some development related announcements:
Not on the formal program was a certain amount of uncertainty over the arrival of SQL Server 2008:
He said Microsoft’s SharePoint Server would become the first Microsoft product to use enterprise search from its Fast Search and Transfer acquisition. The delayed SQL Server will be next. "Think of it as SQL Server, but it’s really Fast," he said.
For all the talk of data services, there was still no date on the next edition of SQL Server. Demonstrating SQL Server 2008, Dave Campbell, from Microsoft’s data storage platform division said SQL Server 2008 would be available in the "next month or two."
Earlier today we shipped a public beta of our upcoming .NET 3.5 SP1 and VS 2008 SP1 releases. These servicing updates provide a roll-up of bug fixes and performance improvements for issues reported since we released the products last November. They also contain a number of feature additions and enhancements that make building .NET applications better (see below for details on some of them).
We plan to ship the final release of both .NET 3.5 SP1 and VS 2008 SP1 this summer as free updates. You can download and install the beta here.
At the first link there’s quite a list of enhancements including SQL Server 2008 support, ADO.NET Data Services (formerly code-named "Astoria"), and the ADO.NET Entity Framework and ASP.NET 3.5 extensions previewed in December.