Microsoft renews assault on Adobe Flash with Silverlight 2.0
Thanks to its broad adoption by video sharing sites like Google’s YouTube, and photo sharing sites like Yahoo’s Flickr, Macromedia’s Flash (bought by Adobe in 2005) rapidly became the technology of choice for streaming content over the internet.
A year ago, Microsoft released the first version of its Flash competitor, Silverlight. It could match rivals’ features, and was fast and user-friendly, yet Silverlight 1.0 had no silver bullet, so to speak, to scare up developers comfy with Adobe’s alternative.
There have some inroads, noteably in the US where support from key partners like AOL, NetFlix and NBC, through the Beijing Olympics coverage it hosted online, have seen Silverlight installed one in three PCs (where it sits alongside Flash, installed on nearly 100% of computers).
Tomorrow Microsoft will release Silverlight 2.0, renewing its assault on Flash.
The hero feature of Silverlight 2.0 is a new “Deep Zoom” feature, which can be used to zoom in on one high resolution digital photo, or a virtual “wall” of dozens or even thousands of high-rez photos running to gigabytes of data at gigapixels across. As you zoom in using your mouse’s scroll wheel, or pan around the wall, images are streamed to your PC in real-time.
The Hard Rock Cafe has used Silverlight 2.0 to create a memorabilia wall (above) which you can view here (after downloading the 4MB Silverlight 2.0 – still in its beta 2 version until tomorrow – here). The version currently online has 367 items; Hard Rock has also created a wall using 70,000 images that runs to 2 billion pixels.
“Deep Zoom is designed in a way that will reduce web hosting and bandwidth costs by sending to the browser exactly the right size and resolution image for the current display area,” Microsoft New Zealand web development advisor Nigel Parker tells NBR.
Firefox good, Chrome bad
On a so-so wi-fi connection, I found the Hard Rock Wall easy to pan around and zoom in on (above is a close-up on a note from John Lennon to Phil Spectre).
Silverlight worked fine with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 beta, and fine with Mozilla Firefox 3.03, but would not install on Chrome.
Neither will Silverlight work with an iPhone at this point. For its part, Microsoft says it wants Silverlight to work on anything with an SDK (software development kit) and that it’s ready to talk to all comers about adding support.
More options for advertisers
Mr Parker says Silverlight 2.0 also features expanded advertiser support. “This includes new streaming and progressive download capabilities, superior search engine optimisation techniques, and next-generation in-stream advertising support.”
Goodies for geeks
Many of Silverlight 2.0’s other enhancements, detailed for NBR by Microsoft’s Parker, are on arcane level, aimed at broadening its appeal to a wider pool of software developers.
Parker also detailed Silverlight 2.0’s “extensive” digital rights management “DRM” features for protecting streamed content from being copied, and capabilities for building AJAX (XML) applications and its number of skins and templates.
Below: trailers and teasers online from Silverlight 2.0 launch partner Fox. NBC is also planning to put thousands of hours of TV footage online in Silverlight format, following on from its Sliverlight streamed Bejing 2008 coverage via nbcolympics.com. tvnzondemand has a heavy development commitment to Adobe's rival Flash technology.