All posts tagged ‘silverlight’

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.

Firefox Lends IE Hand for Next Gen HTML

Firefox and IE displaying canvas graphics elements side by side.

Firefox and IE displaying canvas graphics elements side by side.
Picture courtesy Vladimir Vukicevic’s blog

According to Mozilla engineer Vladimir Vukicevic, Internet Explorer isn’t adapting to the next generation of web standards fast enough, so he’s going to have to do it himself.

Vukicevic has been working to introduce HTML 5 graphic canvas elements to Firefox. As we mentioned in our preview of Firefox 3.1, canvas elements introduce the ability to render two dimensional, and soon three dimensional, graphics directly through web pages without a download. The graphics are part of the next-generation HTML 5 standard, and it’s something Opera and Safari have already implemented.

The problem is the leading browser on the internet, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, doesn’t support Canvas elements and have announced no plans to support it in the future. If you were a Mozilla developer behind a cool new feature and you knew people weren’t going to use it until the leading browser on the web implemented it, you might feel tempted to lend the other browser a hand.

Vukicevic did exactly that. His ActiveX component adds the ability to see Canvas elements in Internet Explorer exactly the same way Opera, Safari or Firefox 3.1 users will. According to Vukicevic’s blog post:

“Canvas is just one piece of the full modern web platform, but because it’s so self-contained, it lets us experiment with pushing the web platform forward even for browsers that have fallen behind (or that might not be interested in an open web).”

The code isn’t finished yet. There are still some graphic implementations needed to bring the feature up to standard. Even more daunting, there are installation issues with Vukicevic’s solution:

“Currently, the experience is pretty crappy… In theory, with the right signatures, the right security class implementations, some eye of newt, and a pinch of garlic, it’s possible to get things down to a one-time install which would make the component available everywhere.”

Still, this is great news for Internet Explorer fans. HTML 5 technology aims to bring multimedia elements, such as audio, video and graphics to your browser without depending on third-party media solutions. The standard, if implemented among all browsers, allows web developers the tools needed to ensure the same user experience no matter what browser you choose to use.

For the rest of us, it means a seamless and rich multimedia experiences in our favorite web pages — no more missing plug-ins or add-ons.

However, Internet Explorer hasn’t been very open to adapting to developing standards as Opera, Safari and Firefox has. In part, this is because it is pushing its own .NET based technology, including its Silverlight multimedia browser plug-in, to achieve the same goal. Pushing adoption of its technology instead of web standards such as HTML 5 (using the weight of Internet Explorer’s leading market share) means the company has more power to influence the future of emerging internet technology.

This is where Vukicevic’s add-on is so unique. In a way, it forces Internet Explorer to play along with the web standards community without its direct involvement. In turn, web developers will be more apt to use the technology. And if all browsers use the same standards, it means rich internet multimedia for all.