Understanding Silverlight

Silverlight was announced both at NAB (National Association of Broadcasting Conference) and MIX. There have been quite a few announcements around the technology. Is it a platform, browser plug-in, media player, and more? With many blog posts on the subject, it still can be hard to get a clear picture of the technology and how it applies to you. I reviewed some reliable resources on the weekend and summarized Silverlight as follows based on my understanding. Hope this will help you better understand the "Star" of MIX.

Silverlight is a couple of different things:

  1. Silverlight runtime for rich media

    • Silverlight enables you to incorporate stunning media elements into your application. You can download and stream high quality video, both DVD and HD video at up to 720p quality within any browser.
    • Silverlight's media support uses standards-based codex which allow for greater compatibility. For example, the compatible video codex allow you to produce movies using Windows and then stream them to a Mac or an Xbox.
  2. Silverlight as a cross-platform, cross-browser plug-in for Rich Interactive Application (RIA)

    • It is a compatible subset of .NET Framework. .NET provides a consistent programming environment across every class of application and every tier – mobile, cross-platform, Windows, Office, web server, mid-tier, database. Tomorrow’s business applications will require this rich client environment integrated together with both servers and services. 
    • Enables designers and developers to quickly create applications with graphics, multi-media, rich data integration, business process, and interactivity
    • Silverlight is also designed so you can work with any backend technology. Therefore, you can use Silverlight as it is, and integrate it within a PHP site, within a Rail site, within a Java site, or any other backend implementation you want to take advantage of.
    • Silverlight(Alpha 1.1 with .NET technology) is small (only 4MB), which can be downloaded in less than 20 seconds

Silverlight Streaming Service (announced during MIX Keynote)

  • upload up to 4GB of video content into the Microsoft Data Center for free
  • Host up to DVD quality videos
  • complete control of the video branding and integration with your site

Tools for Silverlight (with target users in parenthesis)

  • Create graphical assets using Expression Design and output as XAML files (Visual designer)
  • Create Silverlight RIAs using Expression Blend May preview (Interaction designer)
  • Use Expression Media to manage digital assets (Designer and developer)
  • Silverlight video can be created by any tools that support WMV, MS provides Expression Media Encoder (video encoding specialist or multimedia designer )
  • Silverlight RIA backend can be programmed using Visual Studio Orcas Beta 1(developer)