Tech News and Opinions (by Paul Spain)

Silverlight 4 beta released, puts some heat on Adobe

, posted: 19-Nov-2009 09:31

silverlight 4

Microsoft have today made available the first public beta of Silverlight 4. Targeted specifically at developers this release brings with it dozens of new features and improvements that are likely to accelerate the uptake of Silverlight by the software and web development community.

As well as improvements for running in the browser, Silverlight 4 also brings major integration with Windows and also Office on the desktop for standalone Silverlight applications. Webcam/Mic support, Hardware acceleration and Multitouch support are in this release too.

The question is what impact will this have on Adobe Flash and Adobe AIR? The number of desktops with a Silverlight client is increasing by millions each week, but clearly the installed base is still much smaller than that of Flash (Microsoft suggest 45% of internet connected devices have Silverlight installed today). For many applications however Silverlight is just a better platform to develop on - especially for those who are already developing with Microsoft's toolset of Visual Studio, etc.

I expect 2010 to be the year in which Silverlight on the web becomes almost commonplace. Today the bulk of consumer sites that leverage Silverlight technology are ones from Microsoft. The brilliant site is an example which stretches your music collection out from your PC and Zune player to the cloud so you can access your music anywhere.

So when will Silverlight 4 be finalised for full public release? During the first half of 2010 is what we've been advised. Likely that means May or June.

The following are the highlights of Silverlight 4 according to Microsoft...

What's New in Silverlight 4 Beta?
Silverlight 4 delivers a full suite of powerful capabilities to business application developers, bringing the best-of-breed .NET platform to browser-based experiences. Silverlight provides an ideal platform for developing and deploying modern business applications for both customer facing and staff-facing applications.

Business Application Development
Silverlight 4 consolidates its position as the natural choice for building business applications on the Web:

New Features for Application Developers
  • Comprehensive printing support enabling hardcopy reports and documents as well as a virtual print view, independent of screen content.
  • A full set of forms controls with over 60 customizable, styleable components. New controls include RichTextbox with hyperlinks, images and editing and Masked textbox for complex field validation. Enhanced controls include DataGrid with sortable/resizeable columns and copy/paste rows.
  • WCF RIA Services introduces enterprise class networking and data access for building n-tier applications including transactions, paging of data, WCF and HTTP enhancements.
  • Localization enhancements with Bi-Directional text, Right-to-Left support and complex scripts such as Arabic, Hebrew and Thai and 30 new languages.
  • The .NET Common Runtime (CLR) now enables the same compiled code to be run on the desktop and Silverlight without change.
  • Enhanced databinding support increases flexibility and productivity through data grouping/editing and string formatting within bindings.
  • Managed Extensibility Framework supports building large composite applications.
  • Exclusive tooling support for Silverlight, new in Visual Studio 2010. Including a full editable design surface, drag & drop data-binding, automatically bound controls, datasource selection, integration with Expression Blend styling resources, Silverlight project support and full IntelliSense.
Developer tools
  • Fully editable design surface for drawing out controls and layouts.
  • Rich property grid and new editors for values
  • Drag and drop support for databinding and automatically creating bound controls such as listbox, datagrid. New datasources window and picker.
  • Easy to pick styles and resources to make a good looking application based on designer resources built in Expression Blend.
  • Built in project support for Silverlight applications
  • Editor with full intellisense for XAML and C# and VB languages.
Empowering richer, more interactive experiences
Silverlight is already in use as a comprehensive platform for building rich experiences both for application and pure media scenarios including HD quality, interactive video through Smooth Streaming. Silverlight 4 introduces additional capabilities to enable creation of ever more rich, appealing high-performance interactive experiences and innovative media experiences:

  • Fluid interface enhancements advance application usability through animation effects.
  • Webcam and microphone to allow sharing of video and audio for instance for chat or customer service applications.
  • Audio and video local recording capabilities capture RAW video without requiring server interaction, enabling a wide range of end-user interaction and communication scenarios for example video conferencing.
  • Bring data in to your application with features such as copy and paste or drag and drop.
  • Long lists can now be scrolled effortlessly with the mouse wheel.
  • Support conventional desktop interaction models through new features such as right-click context menu.
  • Support for Google's Chrome browser.
  • Performance optimizations mean Silverlight 4 applications start quicker and run 200% faster than the equivalent Silverlight 3 application.
  • Deep Zoom enhancements include hardware acceleration to support larger datasets and faster animation.
  • Multi-touch support enables a range of gestures and touch interactions to be integrated into user experiences.
  • Multicast networking, enabling Enterprises to lower the cost of streaming broadcast events such as company meetings and training, interoperating seamlessly with existing Windows Media Server streaming infrastructure.
  • Content protection for H.264 media through Silverlight DRM powered by PlayReady.
  • Output protection for audio/video streams allowing content owners or distributors to ensure protected content is only viewed through a secure video connection.
Move beyond the browser
Silverlight 3 pioneered the delivery of a new class of Rich Internet Applications to work on the desktop without additional code or runtimes. Silverlight 4 extends this capability:

For Sandboxed applications

  • Place HTML within your application enabling much tighter integration with content from web servers such as email, help and reports.
  • Provide support for 'toast' notification windows, allowing applications to communicate status or change information while the user is working on another application through a popup window on the taskbar.
  • Offline DRM, extending the existing Silverlight DRM powered by PlayReady technology to work offline. Protected content can be delivered with an embedded license so that users can go offline immediately and start enjoying their content.
  • Control over aspects of UI include window settings such as start position, size and chrome.
For Trusted applications

  • Read and write files to the user's MyDocuments, MyMusic, MyPictures and MyVideos folder (or equivalent for non-windows platforms) for example storage of media files and taking local copies of reports.
  • Run other desktop programs such as Office, for example requesting Outlook to send an email, send a report to Word or data to Excel.
  • COM automation enables access to devices and other system capabilities by calling into application components; for instance to access a USB security card reader.
  • A new user interface for requesting application privileges access outside the standard Silverlight sandbox.
  • Group policy objects allow organizations to tailor which applications may have elevated trust.
  • Full keyboard support in fullscreen mode richer kiosk and media applications.
  • Enhancements to networking allow cross-domain access without a security policy file.
To learn more about these features, visit the PDC09 site to view sessions from the conference!

You can down the beta and associated development tools now from here.

Other related posts:
We need you: Gorilla Technology is growing again
Silverlight 4 has landed for PC and Mac – coming soon to TVs

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