Silverlight 3 and Expression 3 were released on July 9th to favorable reviews. The original Silverlight shipped in Fall 2007 as Microsoft's first programmable web browser plug-in. It's a 4MB Flash/Flex competitor that runs on Mac OS, Windows, Linux, and mobile devices. While Flash definitely holds the market share for machine installs, according to Microsoft, "In less than nine months since its release, more than 1 in 3 Internet devices now have Silverlight 2 installed."Microsoft's
While this market penetration may seem high to some, the fact that Silverlight does not have widespread name recognition is perhaps a testament to the seamlessness of the service. In it's third iteration, Silverlight 3 offers some interesting new features including the following improvements:
1. Streaming Support: Silverlight changes and adapts the video quality of a media file based on available bandwidth and CPU conditions in order to deliver an optimized viewing experience. This provides support for live and on-demand true HD (720p+) streaming. Video giant Netflix first employed the platform in 2007 to power its instant viewing service. With the new streaming support, the only thing holding back HD video sites is their own limited catalogues.
2. Sketchflow: Expression Studio's SketchFlow allows for rapid user interface prototyping. This means that concepts and projects can evolve seamlessly without the need for lengthy redesigns. Developers are also able to apply their sketches to a 3D plane and add animation and annotations to them. Designers and developers are reporting that Sketchflow cuts down mock up times significantly.
3. Out-of-browser Capabilities: Similar to Adobe's AIR and Mozilla's Prism, Silverlight enables applications to be placed in a restricted store on a users machine. Users are then provided a direct link to the application from their desktop or start menu. Silverlight also tests for a network connection and automatically syncs and stores files depending on that connection. This ensures point back up.
One of Silverlight 3's early projects is French-based Eeple's Board. The project was started by a 19-year-old computer science student and is a virtual cork board with pictures, posters and articles. As with a real cork board, messages and notes can be layered to produce a media collage. In this case, the media includes videos, blog posts and music files.
A year ago, Silverlight's penetration was 17%, today it's at a third of all users. Compared to the 99% market penetration of Flash 9 and 86% penetration of Flash 10, this is extremely low. It will be interesting to see if Silverlight 3's features will increase the rate of adoption. Partnerships will certainly play a key role in how the market is carved out in the years to come.