Today Microsoft and Tesco, one of the world’s largest retailers, announced a collaboration to use Silverlight to deliver the next generation of Home Video entertainment to consumers. Starting this Fall, customers who buy certain home video titles from Tesco stores in the UK will be able to download a “virtual” version of that product from Tesco’s websites. The digitally downloaded version will include all the same content and menu features of the DVD and Blu-ray versions, but with more advanced design and interactivity enabled by Silverlight.

“What’s the big deal?” Well, consider the current consumer experience when you purchase a DVD or Blu-ray with a Digital Copy version on a bonus disk: All you get is the movie. Sure, you can copy that over to your laptop or a portable media player and take it on a plane. But what if you want to use that digital version as your primary experience on your computer or in your connected TV room? In that case you’re going to want the equivalent experience that the physical disk delivers.

The case is even more limited when you purchase an electronic version of a movie online for download (the Electronic Sell Through or Download- to-Own scenario). While the pricing for download-to-own is normally a few dollars less than the equivalent physical disk, the two versions are wholly different products. Instead of being a bonus version included with the full disk experience you’ve purchased, you’ve now shelled out a few less dollars for DTO but gotten a much more limited experience.

The current gap between physical disk and digital copy/EST experiences is the result of myriad legacy technical, commercial, and industry issues - all too complex to cover here. Suffice it to say that looking to the future, consumers, the Hollywood Studios, and major retailers like Tesco all agree that digital copy and EST should provide an equivalent value experience to one delivered on physical disk. And that’s where Silverlight shines…

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(a basic Silverlight interactive movie player)

Silverlight excels at advanced media and network-based interactivity. It can deliver the same user experience to both Windows PCs and Mac, including 1080p video and the ability to save an application to the desktop for out-of-browser use whether connected or offline. These capabilities not only enable DVD and Blu-ray equivalent experiences, but allow distributors and retailers to build sophisticated network-based features into their products not available even through BD-Live.

A Silverlight application saved to the desktop can monitor whether or not it has Internet connectivity and automatically connect to receive new content or application updates. For example, instead of being forced to watch two year old trailers that were current when the DVD was made, the Silverlight experience could update to current trailers to play before the movie, or add new bonus content. It could even entirely update or replace the Silverlight application to add new capabilities and features. Offerings like networked viewing parties, live chat, multiplayer games, and interactive storylines all become viable experiences through Silverlight.

Finally, all content providers want to maintain ongoing relationships with their viewers and Silverlight provides a way to do this. For example, a retailer could provide discounts on future products, or a Studio could let movie owners know about a new director’s cut edition. With the Silverlight experience, they can directly and noninvasively reach out in a way consistent with customer expectations and the user experience.

We’re very excited about this new use of Silverlight and look forward to seeing what new and creative Silverlight-based experiences are created by Tesco and others that expand the future of home video entertainment.