I was very excited last year when we released the first version of Expression Studio to help bring the professional designer into the software development process for client and standards-based web applications.  This suite of designer tools opened up a new world of creative possibility for applications. 


Today we released the beta version of Expression Studio 2 which includes Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Design, Expression Media and Expression Encoder.  This release continues to enable building rich client applications with WPF and also helps designers target Silverlight for delivering stunning web applications.


There are many exciting new features in this release.  For example, Expression Web allows you to design PHP documents in addition to ASP.NET 3.5, opening the door for a new range of designers to create their standards-based designs using Microsoft tools.  Expression Blend has an improved interface that speeds up your workflow and facilitates navigating your documents more quickly with the new breadcrumb toolbar.  Expression Design includes an advanced slicing feature that helps you target individual slices as separate formats, including Silverlight canvas, WPF canvas, WPF resource dictionary, HTML comp, XAML, PSD, and PDF.  Expression Media makes digital asset management easy by allowing you to import more than 100 different media formats using drag-and-drop, including digital camera RAW files, then share the resulting catalogue with fellow team members.   Finally, Expression Encoder has higher quality and faster encoding for Silverlight and the ability to perform simple video edits.


To enable designers to begin exploring the power of Silverlight 2, today we also released Expression Blend 2.5 March 2008 Preview, a pre-release of the next version of Blend (post Expression Studio 2) that will eventually ship alongside Silverlight 2. As Silverlight and other platform technologies continue to advance, we will regularly release refreshes of our developer and designer tooling.


With Expression Studio 2, we are also introducing the Expression Professional Subscription, a new premium offering targeted at professional designers which complements the existing MSDN subscriptions for developers.  This annual subscription will provide convenient access to the newest Microsoft and 3rd-party software.  The subscription includes free updates to future versions of included products (e.g., Expression Studio, Visual Studio, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Office 2007, Visio and others) during the subscription period guaranteeing you have the latest tools for delivering your designs.  We are also including preconfigured virtualized environments with Microsoft servers and services such as Windows Server 2008, IIS7, and SQL Server to help designers get going quickly.


Inspiration, freedom to explore and self expression are important elements of the creative process and the Expression Community site we launched last week is about bringing professional designers together to inspire each other, discover new techniques and share their creations with fellow community members.  We want this site to strengthen our ties with the spectrum of designers at all levels by providing a rich destination for learning, sharing and discovery.


Whether you are creating visual artifacts, animating your application, building your website, editing videos or generating encoded content, Expression Studio has the tool for you.  You can access the beta here and send us your feedback as well as join and participate in the Expression Community.