Microsoft Flips the Switch on Silverlight 3

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Microsoft has formally released Silverlight 3, the latest version of its interactive technology which is often described as the company’s direct competitor to Adobe Flash, but might be better viewed as a development platform that also competes with the likes of Adobe Air, JavaFX, and even efforts like Google Gears. Silverlight 3 beefs up the technology’s support for streaming high-definition video by offering direct support for available GPUs, supporting H.264/Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) Audio, and a new stutter-free “Smooth Streaming” feature when used in conjunction with Microsoft’s IIS 7 server.

Microsoft also launched Expression 3, a new version of its Silverlight development tools so programmers and application developers can dive into building Silverlight-enabled sites and applications. Among recent converts to Silverlight are NBC Sports, Continental Airlines, and MGM’s upcoming sci-fi television show SGU: Stargate: Universe.

“In a record amount of time, we’ve gone from being the industry newcomer to achieving a remarkable rate of industry adoption, rapidly delivering capabilities such as SketchFlow and IIS Smooth Streaming that are unmatched by other vendors,” said corporate VP for Microsoft’s .NET platform Scott Guthrie, in a statement. “With more than 6 million developers with .NET programming skills worldwide and a platform that delivers a rich user experience at some of the lowest costs possible, Silverlight ubiquity is a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if.'”

Microsoft says Silverlight 2, which launched in October 2008, is available on one in three Internet-connected computers.

Silverlight 3 also offers developers a bundle of new graphics and hardware-accelerated animation features, support for deep linking (so developers can offer URLs which connect to specific content within a Silverlight site, as well as support for search engine optimization, improved data support, and all-around performance improvements. And with Silverlight 3, the technology is no longer confined to a Web browser: Silverlight applications can now be run right on users’ desktops without a separate runtime application or plug-in.

The Silverlight 3 plug-in is free, and available for Windows XP/Vista and Windows 7 and Intel-based Macs running Mac OS X 10.4.8 or newer.

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