One of Microsoft’s most anticipated new products is a free, tiny download that will run on Windows, Mac and eventually Linux, and went from a roughed-out preview to a final product in less than a year.
The company on Tuesday night announced the availability of Silverlight, its online player for videos and interactive Web applications that will compete with Adobe’s Flash, the dominant platform for Internet multimedia.
The software is one of the first new Microsoft products to be developed under Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, who took over that title from Bill Gates last June.
Silverlight is a major part of Microsoft’s strategy to solidify its already huge base of software developers.
It allows them to use their skills with Microsoft tools such as Visual Studio for a new category of Rich Internet Applications, which are accessed through a Web browser and are designed to be easier to use and have better features.
“Silverlight is our entry into this new category of applications… for providing media and rich interactive content to customers in a cross-browser and cross-platform way,” said Brian Goldfarb, group product manager in Microsoft’s developer division.
Chris Swenson, an analyst with NPD Group who was briefed in advance of Microsoft’s announcements, said the competition for Flash will be good for consumers.
“Flash owns the Web video market,” he said.
Where other challengers such as SVG have fallen short, Swenson said he expects Silverlight to succeed.
“I think Silverlight obviously has everything that the other technologies were missing,” he said.
In particular, he cited Microsoft’s software-development tools and its new set of integrated design tools called Expression Studio, which competes with Creative Suite from Adobe.
He also lauded the easy process to download the player and the companion online service, Silverlight Streaming, which allows creators to store and deliver their content and applications using Microsoft’s servers.
“It’s a really important strategic move from Microsoft’s perspective,” Swenson said.
From the outset, developers have said it’s important that Silverlight have a broad base of users before they build applications or publish videos that run on the new software.
In addition to sending Silverlight out on the Web, Microsoft announced it is working with Novell to build a version compatible with the open-source Linux operating system, to be called Moonlight.
Microsoft, however, does not plan to push the Silverlight download out to its millions of Windows customers through its online updating software. Instead, the company is “taking more of a content-driven approach to adoption; working with customer and partners to spread the Silverlight word,” Godlfarb said in an e-mail. “When it comes down to it, viewers are interested in content, not the underlying technology.”
The company trotted out several customers and internal projects that are using the technology.
Microsoft highlighted work done using Silverlight for “Entertainment Tonight” on a site to cover the Emmy Awards with interactive content. World Wrestling Entertainment is using it for a site designed to attract new fans and provide more content to its existing fanatics.
Internally, the technology will be used on the company’s main Web site and in a promotional site for Halo 3, Goldfarb said.
Source: The Seattle Times