LAS VEGAS -- Silverlight, Microsoft's browser- and platform-agnostic tool for building rich Internet applications, is broadening its reach to take advantage of the .NET Framework, Microsoft announced at the MIX07 conference.
This means Silverlight developers can use ASP.NET AJAX, the Language Integrated Query, IntelliSense editing and debugging on the desktop, the server and the browser, the company said. The CLR engine for Silverlight will be identical to the desktop CLR.
These features are included in Silverlight 1.1 Alpha, which is available on the Microsoft Silverlight download page.
"Silverlight brings .NET to the universal Web," chief software architect Ray Ozzie said. "We now have a first-class .NET runtime environment across the server, service, mobile devices and, with XNA, even gaming consoles."
This .NET Framework integration represents one of three pillars of Silverlight, Ozzie noted. The second is its support for the Mac platform and for the Firefox and Safari browsers. The third, emphasizing software plus services, is twofold: new APIs and HTML controls to expose Windows Live services and Silverlight Streaming, which gives developers a free place to post the media that is delivered in Silverlight apps.
For Ozzie, software plus services represents the ability to marry universal web applications with experience-first apps -- in other words, apps that large numbers of end users spend a lot of time working on.
In this union, desktop, Web and mobile platforms coexist, always with the service as a hub, Ozzie said. "Microsoft is a platform company at its core and what we're building [with Silverlight] is a services platform," he added.
Part of Silverlight's appeal, Microsoft said, is that, like Windows Presentation Foundation and Expression Studio, it creates back-end XAML files for rich media components.
This reduces the tension between the developer and designer. In this typical relationship, noted Scott Guthrie, general manager of the .NET developer platform, the designer gives a developer an egg and the developer cracks it. "It's funny because it's true," he said.
Other announcements from the MIX07 keynote include the following:
- A alpha version of Silverlight development support for Visual Studio Orcas Beta 1.0.
- A Go-Live license for Silverlight 1.0 beta, which is also available on the Microsoft Silverlight download page. This product should be available for general release this summer, Guthrie said.
- The general release of Microsoft Expression Studio, the toolset for Web application designers.
- A May preview version of Microsoft Expression Blend, which supports the development of Silverlight-based applications.
- IronRuby, a Ruby implementation for the .NET Framework that can be used in Silverlight 1.1. Additional information is available in TheServerSide.NET story, IronRuby unveiled at MIX07.
More documentation, downloads and information can be found on the Microsoft Silverlight: Get Started page.
Open source gurus react
At a Monday afternoon session called "Open Source Applications Using the .NET Platform," several prominent voices for open-source development were asked to offer their thoughts on the morning's Silverlight announcements.
However, all the non-Microsoft panelists agreed that, for Silverlight, "cross-platform" needed to mean more than just Windows and Mac. "It should be a wide spectrum, everything under the sun," said Miguel de Icaza, vice president of developer platforms at Novell.
Mike Schroepfer, the leader of Mozilla's engineering group, said it was the wide availability of APIs, like those from Google, which fostered a sort of "spontaneous creativity" for rich Internet application development. The less proprietary the technology, he said, the harder it is apps like mash-ups to emerge.