Silverlight 2 Beta 2 is nearly here (out at the end of this week), I want to highlight key announcements in TechEd and give you an overview on the competitiveness area.
User Interface Changes: Beta 2 includes improvements in animation support, error handling and reporting, automation and accessibility support, keyboard input support, and general performance. This release also provides more compatibility between Silverlight and WPF.
Silverlight 2 Controls: Beta 2 includes a new templating model called Visual State Manager that allows for easier templating for controls. Other features include the introduction of TabControl, text wrapping and scrollbars for TextBox, and for DataGrid additions include Autosize, Reorder, Sort, performance increases and more. Most controls are now in the runtime instead of packaged with the application.
Networking: Beta 2 includes improved Cross Domain support and security enhancements upload support for WebClient, and duplex communications (“push” from server to Silverlight client).
BCL: Beta 2 includes improved threading abilities, LINQ-to-JSON, ADO.NET Data Services support, better support for SOAP, and various other improvements to make networking and data handling easier.
Deep Zoom: Beta 2 introduces a new XML-based file format for Deep Zoom image tiles, as well as a new MultiScaleTileSource that enables existing tile databases to utilize Deep Zoom. Better, event driven notification for zoom/pan state is another improvement in Silverlight 2 Beta 2.
Moonlight: Another interesting areas that I want to highlight is the imminent release of Moonlight for Linux support, check this blog: http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2008/May-13-1.html
Silverlight Mobile: This is quite hermetic but Windows Mobile and Nokia based (S60, S40, N8xx Internet Tablet) devices as a first priority, they will support in the a version of the Silverlight 2 plug-in.
How is Silverlight different than Flash? Flex? Adobe AIR? Some of the scenarios for Flash and Silverlight usage are similar, such as rich media/video within websites, or interactive rich content for e-commerce, e-learning, or advertising. However, Silverlight uses a dramatically different approach for creating and delivering experiences in a way that aligns more with our customers’ development and deployment needs.
Microsoft’s client/web platform offerings span Windows to the Web, and include emerging surfaces such as the media/living room (Xbox360, Media Center PC), as well as mobile devices. Each of these platforms has shared capabilities and development tooling, but greatly different performance and integration characteristics. By comparison, Flash, Flex, and AIR are all variants of the Flash animation plug-in that Adobe acquired from Macromedia. They share a presentation and programming framework that was first developed for “skip-intro” and other pre-broadband experiences in the browser, and have incrementally evolved to add better programming, but lack the integration, performance, and tooling necessary to build many of the apps and content experiences that will be increasingly of interest to many businesses.
Silverlight, WPF, and ASP.NET AJAX share development and design tooling support with Microsoft Expression and Visual Studio product lines. With these tools, designers and developers can collaborate more effectively than ever before to design and implement superior UX. Adobe’s tooling and application frameworks are very focused on animation and cosmetic design, traditionally for the creative professional and not the application development audience.
Flex: For enterprise line of business (LOB) applications, Microsoft offers a breadth of solutions for building business applications that directly integrate with Microsoft Office, as integral parts of the Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and SharePoint Server experience. Flex is a new technology built on the Flash animation plug-in which allows developers to build richer Web-based UI and connections to server data. However, Flex lacks deeper integration into the environment where most of these LOB applications are used.
Adobe AIR: Web standards based development using AJAX is a proven technology for developing compelling and easy to deploy applications to the desktop with zero-touch requirements for additional client side infrastructure. Microsoft has shown continued innovation and commitment to this space with our Internet Explorer browser, our Live services, and our ASP.NET AJAX scripting capabilities for server code that delivers compliant Web standards to Mac and Windows clients.