An Overview of Microsoft Silverlight
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The monopoly is over; it's the time of duopoly, or more
precisely, a takeover bid. Who will replace whom or whom to be replaced by
what? Don't get confused in these twists of sentences. Relax! Your queries will
be met as we move ahead. Microsoft’s latest gift in the name of Silverlight, is
all set to replace the old and traditional Adobe's Flash and become the
technology of choice for developing the next generation of cross-browser,
cross-platform Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). Moreover, Microsoft has
already decided to make this plug-in freely available for all supported
platforms. This article presents an introduction to this technology, its applicability,
and its future; it also provides links and references for further insight onto
But what exactly is this technological hype about? Moreover,
how far it will be effective for those users who play with animations,
graphics, designs, i.e., especially where the creativity matters? We will discuss
this and other related issues in the sections that follow.
|What is Silverlight and why is it useful?|
Silverlight was formerly known as Windows Presentation
Foundation Everywhere. Yes! Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere (WPF/E)
now has an official name - Microsoft Silverlight. It is "blindingly
fast" and a strong competitor to Adobe Flash and promises to be the
technology of choice for designing Rich Internet Applications (RIA) in the
years to come. It is a cross-browser, cross platform plug-in, a light-weight
subset of XAML, which supports Ajax, Python, Ruby, etc., and helps develop Rich
Internet Applications (RIA) with awesome media experiences. "Microsoft
Silverlight provides a comprehensive environment for delivering rich media
experiences online and beyond. With the support of Rhozet's suite of
transcoding solutions, content providers will gain tremendous versatility and
efficiencies for rich video distribution to Silverlight-based
Silverlight promotes a collaborative development of rich
online media content that enables the developers and designers to integrate
awesome graphics into Ajax enabled web pages. Moreover, you can create and even
preview your code at real time. You can write your code in Extensible
Application Markup Language (XAML) in the Microsoft .NET environment and then
integrate within it rich graphics and animations, without being skeptical about
the compatibility issues. Tim Sneath says, "By separating markup (XAML)
from code, Silverlight provides a familiar web metaphor for designers and
developers. You can embed XAML directly within an HTML file if you want a
simple, monolithic solution, or you can keep the two separate to enforce
delineation between different web development roles."
Silverlight integrates seamlessly with HTML and supports
Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime (CLR), which allows both the designers and
the development community to create their applications within the context of
Microsoft .NET Framework and at the same time, integrate animations and
graphics into their applications seamlessly. It would contain a cut-short
Common Language Runtime (CLR) that can be assessed from the web browser. In a
nutshell, you have the combination of the best of both worlds - the power of
Microsoft .NET's managed, platform independent environment coupled with amazing
graphics. So, what comes out is an awesome user experience. According to Nik
Cubrilovic, "Silverlight isn't just animations in applets, far from it -
it is a very serious development environment that takes desktop performance and
flexibility and puts it on the web."
The usage of Silverlight facilitates the distribution of
multimedia as an integral part of an application in full screen having a
support for Partial High Definition (HD) video at 720p resolution. With the
help of Microsoft’s new Dynamic Language Runtime (DRL), Silverlight also
Both Python and Ruby were introduced by Microsoft and released under a shared
source license, providing developers with both access to the code and the capability
to contribute to it.
|Silverlight and Adobe - Who will be the winner|
With Silverlight around, is it the end of the road for
Adobe? Maybe yes, to a large extent. You have in Silverlight usage of XAML, the
runtime speed, a wide range of flexible options with a variety of programming
language support, a strong multimedia support, compatibility and support for
the .NET managed environment and even more! According to some industry tycoons,
it is going to become a "Flash-killer" and very well poised to
dethrone Adobe in no time.
Still, you will find some critics who often create
controversy so as to usher a new light in the horizon. Silverlight has been
criticized often for the lack of Linux support or any platform other than
Windows and Mac OS X, citing it as a factor that could limit the widespread
adoption of Silverlight in the development community around the globe.
It has further encountered criticism for ignoring existing
international standards. According to Ryan Paul of Ars Technica, Microsoft
could have chosen SVG to implement the vector graphics subset, instead of a
"limited and compatible facsimile," to show their commitment to open
standards and also fix the standards problems that plagues Internet Explorer.
He feels this is inconsistent with Microsoft’s ignoring of open standards in
other products as well.
Moreover, according to David Betz, a standards advocate,
Microsoft would have needed to alter the SVG specification to add .NET
integration and UI constructs on top of SVG. Consequently, the "choice by
Microsoft to use XAML over SVG, served to retain the SVG standard by not adding
proprietary technology" he further reiterates.
|Silverlight - Moving ahead|
What has the future in store for Silverlight? Silverlight
has been pushed side-by-side with Microsoft’s live services for developers.
Microsoft is further opening up API's (application program interfaces) for its
most popular search engine, for Virtual Earth, for its instant messaging
service, and for other services, under benevolent, but not unlimited licensing
terms. These indispensable services will allow the creation of attractive and
interesting online applications that take an advantage of existing Microsoft
networks and resources.
Nik Cubrilovic says, "My personal opinion is that
Silverlight is great and that Microsoft has done very well to bring .NET to the
browser (almost all browsers)." Silverlight enables the display of
high-definition video files. Streaming large media files is dearer, but
Microsoft will host Silverlight media files and applications. This will be a
great help for smaller developers to deliver large and high definition files
fast and reliably, without paying content distribution network fees. Microsoft
promises reliable 700 kbps throughput for media files, and free distribution of
all content on its network for one year. After that phase, distribution will be
free up to 1 million streamed minutes a month. You can find more information here.
The Silverlight technology is typically meant for developing
and distributing stupendous Internet applications or Rich Internet Applications
(RIA's) that use animations, graphics and video within the context of Microsoft
.NET's managed environment.
Keeping aside the technological revolution that Silverlight technology
has brought in; it has already become a victim of controversy. Critics are
there, but whatever the hurdles on the path are Silverlight is well poised to
emerge as the winner in the days to come. Microsoft has a battle in hand and many
points to prove to the creative development community on the web.