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Media Center, Windows Phone7 + Silverlight Goodness..

Silverlight v3 Beta launched at REMIX09

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Microsoft’s Silverlight v3 Beta was officially announced today at the Microsoft’s Remix 09 developer conference – and adds a whole swag of new features to the existing v2 release – making it a serious contender to Adobe’s Flash.

As with the previous years Silverlight Remix launches (for v1 in 2007 and v2 in 2008) – the announcements were accompanied by the availability of a matching Developer SDK + Runtime Download, updated Visual Studio tools/integration and a new beta version of Expression Blend (now also in ‘v3’). To get these downloads – please visit this page on silverlight.net.

As I’ve been using Silverlight v2 (and previously v1) quite heavily for projects over the past couple of years – I’m really happy to see Microsoft putting so much effort and focus into this technology – and how rapidly it’s been evolving, with 12 month update cycles for major revisions.

There’s a bunch of new features which seemed to again have really captured what developers (and I hope designers) want out of Silverlight, some of these highlights (for me) include –

  • Enhanced UI Support/Navigation targeted for LOB (Line of Business) applications
  • ‘Out of Browser’ support ie. ability to write standalone desktop applications and widgets – (which of course also work with Mac O/S)
  • MPEG4 video with H264/AAC Audio support, true 720P HD Video and support for extensible media format (via Raw AV Pipelines)
  • Basic 3D and Shader Effects (like Blur and Shadow) – with ability to create your own shaders (via GPU Acceleration).
  • Modal Dialog support and Deep Linking (allows you to bookmark pages inside your Silverlight App)
  • Tighter integration with Local Environment and ability to communicate with other Silverlight Application Instances.
  • .NET RIA Services – offers tighter integration between Silverlight and ASP.NET making it easier to develope multi tier scenarios (where ASP.NET is your middle tier).

For a more comprehensive list of what’s new (there’s over 50 new features) – please see this link.

What I like the most about Silverlight (and the v3 enhancements) – is that it makes RIA (and now LOB applications) really easy for .NET developers – by offering tight integration with Visual Studio and Expression (individually) – and allows you to maximize your code reuse (and ‘existing’ in house .NET developer skills) across Windows Forms, Server, WPF, ASP.NET and Silverlight applications.

As with the previous versions – a lot of the new features of Silverlight v3 are based on existing features previously offered in WPF (like the basic 3D and pixel shader support) – and then cut down/optimized in a way that makes sense for cross platform / RIA development. This means the learning curve for those developers already familiar with WPF is greatly reduced – and can hit the ground running on the new features.

Unfortunately – there’s one major hurdle for Microsoft to overcome in the short term – no pain second machine, no gain.  At the moment you can’t install the v3 beta developer goodness without crippling your existing Silverlight v2 development setup (ie. the VS2008 Tools for Silverlight v2 don’t work alongside the v3 beta). This is a big problem for me – as I have existing Silverlight v2 apps to support – and it means v3 beta won’t be able to make it’s way to my primary dev workstation any time soon. I’m sure v3 beta will make it to my laptop (not my main workstation) – but this means I’ll be less likely to spend quality time with it or attempt to write any real apps. Alternatives like running a VPC is not a greatly attractive option (too slow and would require me to install a whole new dev environment) – and neither is running a RDP connection to another machine (which would clobber the ability to see any smooth animation or hw graphics acceleration).

I really hope Microsoft sort out this v2 v v3 problem – as I’ve no doubt most developers who use v2 will need to develop both v2 and v3 applications side by side (even when v3 RTM’s later in the year) – and requiring a second machine is not a reasonable or realistic requirement.

Apart from that (dev environment) showstopper however – Silverlight v3 has again really upped the ante for RIA + LOB development – and gives me great confidence to continue to invest in Silverlight skills as a developer (and to continue to recommend it’s use to clients) – as I’m comfortable that Microsoft are there for the long haul with this technology.

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Written by mobilewares

March 18, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Silverlight

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