Microsoft shines a silver light on WPF/E (and TotD)

It's Tuesday's IT Blogwatch: in which Microsoft renames WPF/E as Silverlight, announcing a beta. Not to mention the best tip-of-the-day ever...

Elizabeth Montalbano reports:

Microsoft Corp. this week will formally announce software for delivering rich media applications within multiple Web browsers as part of its broader strategy to compete head to head with Web design tools powerhouse Adobe Systems Inc. ... the Silverlight technology is a browser plug-in that companies can use to offer video, audio and other types of interactive media on their Web sites ... Silverlight — which had been code-named Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere, or WPF/E — is compatible with a range of browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.

The tool, which leverages the WPF graphics framework built into Windows Vista, will make its debut at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas. But it still isn’t ready to ship ... Microsoft will release a beta version of Silverlight and announce general availability plans at its own Mix07 conference, which starts April 30 in Las Vegas ... the company is targeting content providers that want to distribute videos and other rich media over the Web, designers and developers who are building interactive applications, and end users who want the best possible Web-viewing experience ... companies can use Silverlight in a manner similar to the way they use Adobe’s Flash software to create Web-based applications.

...

Microsoft is pitching the Expression tool set, which should be ready for general release in June, as an alternative to Adobe’s recently released Creative Suite 3 software. Applications created with the Expression tools can be delivered to users via Silverlight.

Microsoft's Tim Sneath adds:

Silverlight (previously codenamed "WPF/E") is a lightweight subset of XAML for building rich media experiences on the web ... supports full-screen 720p video and offers seamless transitions between full-screen and windowed mode without losing your position in the video ... By separating markup (XAML) from code, Silverlight provides a familiar web metaphor for designers and developers ... Every XAML element can be accessed or manipulated from the same client-side JavaScript that would be used to interact with any DHTML element.

...

Silverlight is blindingly fast ... both client- and server-agnostic ... almost 100% upward compatible with WPF ... (although Silverlight is a subset - it doesn't support WPF features such as 3D, data binding or templates).

Jim Benson took a break from his Native American instruments:

We've been building software using Microsoft's new Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) since early last fall. We've watched it grow into something pretty special.  And no one was more surprised than we are. When fully mature, the goal of WPF is nothing short of fully separating the graphic design and user interaction of software from the gritty code.  It's still not quite there, but it's getting closer all the time.

The real teaser for WPF was something previously called WPF/E (WPF Everywhere).  If everything goes write, you can theoretically create .NET components that run on a server and feed WPF UI elements as stand alone objects or in a browser. Now this is called Silverlight.  It has several, "Wow that's amazings" attached to it ... If it works as announced, Silverlight will likely save our project well over $500,000. If it doesn't, expect heavy ranting.  :-)

Loren Heiny muses on the rebrand:

First, about the name change, does this fortell that WPF/e's heftier cousin WPF will soon be given a name change too? Maybe "Silver"? Heh. A more likely outcome that this points out is that we have two technologies that are diverging. I hope not though. On the programming side we're still talking about some runtime and a programming model that supports XAML. Same goes for the original Windows Presentation Foundation. Call me silly, but I'd like to see consistent naming across these technologies. No biggy, though. I can get used to any name

...

Microsoft promises further details on Silverlight at Mix07 ... I hope it includes additional OS and/or device support. Supporting Windows and the Mac is good, but it's not exactly the definition of ubiquity. What are you going to say to kids running the OLPC computers? Use Flash?

One thing is for sure, video playback via Flash has caught on big--particularly because it provided a way for video to "just work" in browsers, something that was a pain early on. Silverlight is one step on the path to providing a Microsoft alternative. We'll have to see how it works out.

Kevin Daly, too:

What I want to know is, how did this ever get past the Compulsory Boring Product Name Police? After all, you're supposed to start with the cool codename and then switch to the crappy acronym blessed by corporate lawyers, but this time we seem to have gone the other way. Nifty.

Om Malik breaks out the beer and pretzels:

It’s the season to rumble! ... this promises to be a long bloody fight, though Adobe has an advantage, thanks to near omnipresence of Flash on all platforms.

As an aside, this is a flashback moment from the ’90s, when competing technologies vied for consumer affection but ending up causing more confusion.

But Alec Saunders pours cold water:

The competition to improve the customer experience is great.  But honestly, I'd be happier if (a) Windows Media Player could play a flash video and (b) Flash Media Player supported Microsoft codecs.  Throw Apple and Real into that mix, and I'd be a really happy camper.  Right now, my spiffy new Windows Vista PC feels a lot like Frankenstein's monster, as I battle with getting video from the different vendors to play. The proliferation of codecs and players serves nobody's interests but the software companies.

Buffer overflow:

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Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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