When Microsoft launched the final version of Silverlight 2 last month, it marked a crucial step in the maturation of the .NET-inspired rich Internet application (RIA) platform.
More than a runtime for streaming rich media over the wire, Silverlight 2 incorporates a robust subset of .NET Framework. That has significant implications for .NET shops looking to extend the reach of their code-making efforts.
Microsoft's goal with Silverlight is twofold. The first goal is enabling media, particularly video and audio, and the second goal is enabling RIAs -- both consumer and business applications. "We're optimizing around those two tracks," says Brad Becker, Microsoft's director of rich client platforms.
It's the second track that's capturing the attention of .NET dev managers. Microsoft Development Division Corporate VP Scott Guthrie asserts that Silverlight 2 development is tightly integrated with the existing .NET stack, allowing coders to leverage existing skills and tooling for Silverlight-based app development.
During a press briefing to announce the launch of Silverlight 2 last month, Guthrie noted that existing tooling would be updated for the final Silverlight 2 release. Visual Studio 2008, the Expression Blend 2 design tool and the freely available Visual Web Developer Express IDE for Silverlight development are gaining Silverlight 2 -- specific patches as part of the update. Guthrie laid out a compelling argument for .NET dev shops considering Silverlight-based RIA development.
One noteworthy aspect of Silverlight 2 is its ability to deliver .NET-based application logic beyond the traditional circle of .NET-enabled clients. It's a characteristic of Silverlight that .NET developers are excited about, says Andrew Brust, chief of new technology for consultancy twentysix New York.
Currently Microsoft provides Silverlight runtimes for specific browsers running on Windows XP-, Windows Vista- and Mac OS X-based PCs. Supported browsers include Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows clients, and Firefox and Apple Safari on Macs. The company has also announced runtime development for two mobile platforms: Windows Mobile and Symbian OS-based devices from cell-phone maker Nokia Corp. Guthrie says private testing with additional partners is underway.