Microsoft’s Silverlight Aims to Outshine Flash

Microsoft on Monday unveiled Silverlight, a new browser plug-in designed to compete head-to-head with Adobe’s Flash plug-in. Announced at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show in Las Vegas, Microsoft says the new cross-platform application will let Web publishers deliver rich interactive applications (RIA) and video media that will run on both Mac OS X and Windows PCs via a variety of browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.

If this new technology sounds familiar, it’s derived from technology in previous development: Microsoft sensibly renamed the technology Silverlight — it was previously known as Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E).

“Content providers are seeking a way to deliver rich interactive applications using the tools and skills they already have. They want an end-to-end solution that enables them to rapidly reach multiple platforms with reasonable deployment costs,” said Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft. “Silverlight is the only solution in the market today that enables content creators to tap into the broad ecosystem for Windows Media technologies while taking the Web’s rich interactive application experience to new levels.”

Silverlight uses a combination of Windows Media Video (WMV), Microsoft’s implementation of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) VC-1 video standard, and support for interactive video that can scale full-screen, high-definition video down to mobile small-screen video.

Tapping into Windows Media

Because Silverlight is based on Windows Media Video, publishers can tap into existing Windows Media-related resources to deploy existing content to the Web — or utilize their own Windows Media expertise to work with the new Silverlight.

In addition, because Silverlight is based on the Microsoft .NET Framework, Microsoft says, developers and designers can use existing skills and tools to deliver media experiences and RIAs for the Web. Designers can use Microsoft Expression Studio while developers can use Visual Studio.

Competing with Adobe

Also at the NAB, Adobe on Monday announced plans to deliver its own media player, which will compete with Microsoft’s Windows Media Player. Adobe already has Flash for the Web, which competes with Silverlight. With its new Media Player, Adobe will also be able to work the online and offline rich video convergence angles that Microsoft is going after.

Microsoft has a dominant position with its Windows Media Player, while Adobe enjoys a dominant position with its online Flash player plug-in.

“While I think it’s going to be tough to displace either competitor because they’re so well entrenched, what it all boils down to ultimately is how much content supports which format,” Van Baker, a Gartner analyst, told TechNewsWorld. “Content is where the movement is going to be hard because you’re not suddenly going to get publishers authoring in Silverlight just because it’s out there — they are used to Flash and it’s serving their needs well.

“The same thing goes for Windows Media Audio and Windows Media Video,” he added. “It’s very well entrenched and there’s a lot of people offering content in that format, and they’re unlikely to switch just because Adobe now has a player.”

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