Silverlight Update Aims for Greater Adoption Through Developers

Microsoft announced a new version of Silverlight Monday. The upgrade allows for more robust rich media experiences using the embedded Silverlight rich media plugin in most browsers.

The update has some features that allow more robust online applications, but for the most part, version 2.0 is focused on opening the platform for interoperability. The bulk of the release included programming tools targeted towards encouraging developers to build Silverlight into their pages.

Additionally, the Silverlight team announced partnerships with CBS college sports network, Blockbuster’s upcoming Movielink online rental application, Yahoo Japan, Toyota, Home Shopping Netwrok and Hard Rock Hotel and Cafe. If you visit these sites, consider yourself one of the few who will or have joined the rising legions of web users (and those Hewlett Packard PC owners) coerced into installing another rich media plugin.

Thanks to previous partnerships and events like NBC’s streamcasting of the Olympics, Microsoft now claims about one in four computers have Silverlight installed. This is still a far cry from Adobe Flash’s 99% adoption rate. Silverlight 2.0′s direction towards interoperability are obviously intended to solve this problem. The more developers who use and embed Silverlight, the more likely it will be for adoption to spread. User’s are far less concerned about downloading the plugin than we may suspect.

“People who download Silverlight, they’re not thinking ‘I want to download Silverlight,’” Microsoft corporate vice president Scott Guthrie surmised, “They’re thinking ‘I want to watch college sports on TV.’”

The bright side of Silverlight over its competitors (namely Flash) has got to be its bitrate., Silverlight is capable of bitrates of up to 1.5 mbits per second in high definition. For comparison, your typical YouTube video using Adobe Flash will stream at around 250-300 kbits per second. Along with quality video, the company really hopes version 2 will convince website developers of the platform’s strengths.

“It’s a really robust, really mature stack.” Guthrie gushed. “And there I also expect is where you will see us hold our own and compete very well.”

The developer-friendly runtime environment is now able to handle practically every widely available programming language out there. A host of tools were made available for developing rich media applications with Silverlight. The wide range of tools are built with Microsoft products like Visual Studios, but the release also announced a set of tools for those running the Eclipse integrated development environment — a popular programming editor for Java developers.

The software works across Firefox and Internet Explorer, and on Mac and PC. According to Guthrie, even the latest developer build of Google’s Chrome browser (for Windows) is able to install Silverlight.