Adobe Flash has enjoyed a place in the spotlight for awhile now, and Microsoft hopes to shake that up. Yesterday at the 2007 National Association of Broadcasters conference they unleashed Microsoft Silverlight, a new plug-in that promises to deliver "the next generation of media experiences and rich interactive applications (RIAs) for the Web."
And with Brightcove Inc., Major League Baseball and Netflix already in their corner, we say game on.Having withstood two years in development mode, Silverlight promises fast installation, media-enabled tools and solutions, and scalability. It's also ready for the unpredictable Web terrain that so often throws off other apps, boasting almost hiccup-free compatibility with Macs and PCs as well as with a variety of browsers.
Senior vice president Bob Muglia of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft notes, “Silverlight is the only solution in the market today that enables content creators to tap into the broad ecosystem for Windows Media technologies while taking the Web’s rich interactive application experience to new levels.”
True to form, Silverlight uses existing Web technologies and assets to provide a low-cost and, Microsoft hopes, unparalleled high-quality experience.
* Expression Media Encoder. Able to run on the desktop or Windows Server, Expression Media Encoder is a template-driven system that integrates into existing Web publishing workflows for both live and on-demand content delivery. It features rapid import, compression and Web publishing of digital video imported from popular formats, like AVI and QuickTime, into WMV.
Expression Media Encoder will be a free download for existing Expression Media customers when it is shipped later this year.
* Hardware-accelerated video publishing. When paired with a Tarari Encoder Accelerator, Expression Media Encoder reduces encode times by up to 15 times over software alone, lending significant cost advantages and system flexibility for Web video publishing.
* Greater scalability with Windows Server, code-named Longhorn once upon a time. Building on the industry-leading streaming and Web server platform, Windows Server will enable customers to experience up to twice the scalability on the same hardware when compared with Windows Server 2003.
Another item seeing release this week is the Internet Information Services 7 (IIS7) Media Pack, which includes allegedly cost-efficient features like bit-rate throttling to help reduce the sometimes astronomical costs of media distribution. The IIS7 Media Pack will be a free download for Windows Servers customers when it ships.
We don't know what Adobe is thinking right now, but we can certainly gauge how customers feel about Silverlight. Adam Berrey, vice president of marketing and strategy at Brightcove, puts it in perspective. "The most significant thing about Silverlight is that it basically puts the [...] Windows Media Video format in the browser in a really seamless way," he said.
Then, in a rare moment of non-diplomatic executive honesty, Berrey admits, "The reason we haven't supported Windows Media Video until now is because we felt that the user experience wasn't there."
It certainly is now.
A beta version of Silverlight will be released later this month. In the meantime, check out the Microsoft Silverlight virtual pressroom to stay up-to-date.