Silverlight Scott Guthrie gave a bit of a teaser in a blog post last November, but today Silverlight 3 is a significant step closer to reality through the official announcement of a beta release at MIX 09 in Las Vegas.  Coinciding with the beta is the availability of a preview of Expression Blend 3.

So what’s coming down the pike in Silverlight 3?  Well, the big news is the availability of Silverlight outside of the browser.  This means you’ll be able to deploy Silverlight applications to the desktop without need for an additional  runtime or download.  Add to that over 50 new features and productivity improvements, including

  • Support for H.264 video and AAC audio playback
  • Perspective 3D – Via an extension of the 2D API already in Silverlight 2, you’ll now be able to add perspective to your visual presentations to provide a near-3D experience.
  • Built-in and custom shader effects – As in WPF, you’ll be able to provide effects like blur and drop-shadow as well as custom effects that utilize Microsoft’s High Level Shader Language (HLSL).
  • GPU acceleration – Through caching of the visual tree as a bitmap, Silverlight 3 will be able to make better use of the GPU for certain effects, thus freeing up the CPU for other work.
  • Element name binding – This brings the binding model of Silverlight more in line with that of WPF by allowing the property of one UI element to be bound to the property of another.
  • Styling improvements – With Silverlight 3 you can now build styles that are based on other styles as well as reset styles at runtime (both are options that are also available now in WPF).
  • Binding validation – With Silverlight 3, validation is now available in two-way binding scenarios for data entered via the UI before it is transmitted to the binding source.  As in WPF, UI validation templates will also be provided.
  • Multi-select list box – This control is but one of 60+ fully customizable controls available across nine professionally designed themes (complete with source code to use as is or modify to your heart’s content).
  • Application library caching – Framework assemblies are cached on the client and reused across application invocations or instances, thus improving performance and reducing the collective application footprint.
  • Local connections – Silverlight applications running on the client can communicate with each other without requiring a server round-trip.

That’s just a quick-and-dirty list, there’s definitely more, including March Madness 2009extensible logging, more options for From-To animations (like spring and bounce), deep linking, improved text rendering and font support, and a File Save dialog.

By the way, the NCAA has chosen Silverlight 2 to provide the high quality, on-demand coverage for March Madness.  And you don’t have to wait until tomorrow – there’s some historical highlights as well, including Laettner’s amazing last second shot in the 1992 East regional final versus Kentucky… not that I’m a Dukie or anything!