In San Francisco in mid-July, Microsoft officially launched Version 3 of both Microsoft Expression and Silverlight. Soma Somasegar, Senior Vice President, Developer Edition at Microsoft, delivered the keynote for the new products, emphasizing the importance of simplifying and integrating the designing and development environments.
Said Somasegar: "We need to make sure that the developer and designer communities work together in a seamless way."
Silverlight and Expression are core parts of Microsoft's ongoing Web content creation strategy for both developers and designers. Silverlight is a small, lightweight tool for delivering cross-platform applications that you can use to target Windows, the Mac OS, Linux, and various devices. Microsoft Expression is Microsoft's design tools platform for designers and developers. The platform targets creating not just rich Internet applications (RIA) for designing and implementing standards-based Web sites, but also rich desktop applications and Silverlight applications.
What's new in Silverlight
Key new features target support for higher quality video and audio, improved user experiences, and developer and designer productivity. One of the most highly touted new features is what Microsoft calls Smooth Streaming, which enables live and on-demand HDTV quality (720p+) video streaming. On the user experience, RIA front, Silverlight introduces Out of Browser Support for running Silverlight applications on the desktop. Other new RIA features include pixel-shader effects, bitmap caching, theme application support, bounce and spring animation effects, and simplified control skinning.
For developers and designers, Silverlight serves up more than 60 new controls (including source code) that you can level in your Silverlight applications. New controls tackle tasks that range from charting and multimedia, to layout controls such as dock and viewbox, to data input and presentation features such as autocomplete, treeview, and datagrid. These controls ship with nine distinct themes that you can apply out-of-the-box.
What's new in Expression
From a developer perspective, there are two basic versions of Expression: Web Expression and Expression Blend.
The most heralded new feature in Expression Blend is SketchFlow, which Microsoft debuted originally at MIX. SketchFlow provides a rapid prototyping capability that simplifies experimenting with and showing off the intended features for a given RIA application. Other new Expression Blend features include the ability to import Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files, as well as the ability to build data-connected applications while in a disconnected mode by generating sample data or importing sample data from an XML file.
New features in Expression Web include SuperPreview, which lets you preview and compare how a given page will appear in different browsers; Snapshot Preview, which gives you a browser preview that updates live as you edit your code, enabling you to gauge the effects of your code changes as you make them; and Deep Zoom, which enables you to add both Silverlight and Ajax Deep Zoom Composer images into your Expression Web applications.
SKUs and pricing
Expression will ship in three flavors: Expression Web 3, Expression Studio 3, and Expression Professional Subscription. The Expression Professional Subscription is available for download now. You can pre-buy Expression Web 3 and Expression Studio 3 now, and Somasegar said in his launch keynote that Expression Studio would be released by August 10th.
Expression Web 3 includes Web 3 + SuperPreview; Expression Design 3; and Expression Encoder 3. The estimated retail price for this package is $149 (U.S.) the upgrade price is $79 (U.S.).
Expression Studio 3 includes the items in Expression Web 3, plus Expression Blend 3 + SketchFlow. The estimated retail price for this package is $599 (U.S.); the upgrade price is $349 (U.S).
Express Professional Subscription includes all the elements of Expression Studio 3, plus Visual Studio Standard, the Microsoft Operating Systems (Windows XP and Windows Vista Business Edition), Microsoft Office Standard, and Office Visio Professional. The Expression Professional Subscription costs $999 (U.S.).
Note that the Expression tools platform remains Windows-based only.