21 April 2010

Silverlight 4

Silverlight Logo

Last week Microsoft finally released Silverlight 4. A update to the now quite known RIA Runtime that brings a head to head competition to pretty much all of Adobe browser and desktop plugin technologies in a single blow. The updates to Silverlight 4 respective to previous versions of the runtime are not only big, but the biggest jump in functionality and flexibility so far.

The main reason to saying that, is because now it is all about the so called “3 screens and a cloud” mantra that Microsoft has been chanting in the last 18 months. And how it is now taking shape with Silverlight as the main weapon alongside Windows Azure and IIS7. With Silverlight 4 the jump from the Web to the Desktop is now complete and the jump to mobile and devices (TV’s, TopBoxes, Xbox, etc) has also begun.

After the 2010 Winter Olympics and many other small events around the world powered by Silverlight. The RIA Runtime is now reaching 60% of desktop computers. For that reason it now has been integrated to Bing Maps and it is part of the premium experience of the Office Web Apps to be rolled out with Office 2010 as it gets released in the Summer.

It is expected by Microsoft that Silverlight will have a minimum reach of 75% of desktop computers before 2010 ends in the worst case scenario. I do must state that this figure has not been publicly said by Microsoft yet, but that it is a very conservative number considering that it only would need to gain 2% of marketshare a month to reach that number. Current pace is around 2.5% per month since its adoption has maintained in a sustained crescendo from Silverlight 2 to now.

What is Silverlight?

Silverlight it is a Cross-Platform , Cross-Medium RIA (Rich Internet Application) Runtime that allows a certain content or application to be used everywhere. The equivalent of that would be the Flash/AIR strategy from Adobe.

Or as Microsoft puts it from a development perspective:

Silverlight is a powerful development platform for creating engaging, interactive applications for the Web, desktop, and mobile devices. Silverlight is a free plug-in powered by the .NET framework that is compatible across multiple browsers, devices and operating systems to bring a new level of interactivity wherever the Web works. With support for advanced data integration, multithreading, HD video using IIS Smooth Streaming, and built in content protection, Silverlight enables online and offline applications for a broad range of business and consumer scenarios.

The Features

But what it is new with Silverlight 4 and why it is a big deal?.

According to Microsoft feature matrix these are the new features against what shipped with Silverlight 3:

  • Local Fonts
  • Printing
  • WCF RIA Services
  • Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF)
  • Webcam
  • Microphone
  • Official Support for Google Chrome
  • Output Protection for audio/video
  • Multicast networking
  • Offline DRM
  • Trusted Applications (extended sandbox)
  • IDispatch COM Interop (Windows Only)
  • Group policy object support
  • Full keyboard in out-of-browser for trusted applications
  • Cross-domain network access for trusted applications
  • Custom window chrome
  • Out of browser window settings (position, size etc.)
  • Web Browser Control and Web Browser Brush
  • Notification Toast
  • Right-to-Left / BiDi Text

You can check the full set of features via the Silverlight Feature Matrix Board

It is a big deal because it allows for pretty much any kind of small and medium sized application imaginable to be developed regardless if it is a meant for the web or the desktop, for Windows or OS X. Something that before was just not possible to do for Silverlight.

What is Next for Silverlight?.

There is still a lot left for Silverlight full story to get its potential, but at the pace it is evolving and expanding i can calculate that it will only need 18 months more to do so. The pieces left are:


It has just started to show up in Mobile and surprisingly enough it didn’t showed up first in a Windows Phone. Symbian was the first mobile platform where it is now available. It should be mentioned that the state of Symbian version of Silverlight is not even at Silverlight 3 level. It is on a point in between 2 and 3.

The second platform to get it will be the PMX Windows Phone branch that will launch this May with KIN on Verizon. Windows Phone Classic (WM6.5+) and Windows Phone 7 will not get Silverlight support until after the summer. You can still of course start developing for Windows Phone 7 already.

MeeGO (Previously Moblin and Maemo) will also get Silverlight support later this year as Microsoft had signed a agreement with Intel to port it for Mobiln and it maintains a good relation with Nokia.

Until now Microsoft has not made a clear announcement on a intention to support Google Android and Chrome OS. Neither has any statement being made about the iPhone OS. But that may end up falling to the reach of Miguel De Icaza Team (Novell/Mono/Moonlight).


Just early this month Microsoft announced that Silverlight will also get into HDTV’s and Top Boxes among other things. But while that means it will reach your TV, it don’t ends there because Silverlight is also a integral part of Windows CE 7 that will  power a immense spread of devices you will use everyday without realizing it. And that it’s previous version also happens to be the core of all Windows Phone OSes and all Zunes.


It is no secret that this is a area where Miguel De Icaza will pick up the slack as a way to advance the state of Mono (Open version of .NET) that also encompasses  Moonlight, MonoTouch, MonoDevelop, MonoMac and soon MonoAndroid.

Miguel has already stated that they will support MeeGo and Android with Mono. There is nothing that says Moonlight 3 will not end up in Android and possibly Chrome OS since Moonlight 3 now works with Chrome in both Ubuntu and Suse as in Firefox. In the case Microsoft decides to not support Silverlight in a official manner for those platforms.

Moonlight 3 is right now about to reach beta status and it falls in a middle point from Silverlight 3 and 4. Normally that would be of worry but Silverlight 4 is fully backwards compatible with all previous releases and Microsft own Windows Phone 7 version of Silverlight Mobile will be in a middle point from Silverlight 3 and 4.  Other platforms like Symbian and MeeGo will also be having a similar Silverlight level.

Finally unlike what some say, Silverlight has always worked in the Mac in a official form and so it is the case for Silverlight 4 and future Silverlight releases.

Final Notes

In the end what matters is that with Silverlight 4 you will be seeing a lot of cool apps to benefit from and that i will of course tell you about the best of them. But in order for you to use them, you will need to have Silverlight 4 installed.


Silverlight 4 Download          (Scroll down a little and you will see the download panel at the right)




Anonymous said...

This is a very attractive development platform for programmers who have years of experience with .NET and Visual Studio.

Steve Job's recent closing of the Apple App store to Adobe Flash will back fire I believe as programmers switch to developing for Android and all the Android powered devices. They will forget about the iPhone and iPad and develop for open systems such as the Android phones (even Nook runs on Android) and the upcoming Google slate.


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