Microsoft's Silverlight 3 goes into beta

The company's Flash rival now supports out-of-browser, rich internet applications and high-definition, 3D graphics

Microsoft has released a beta for the third version of Silverlight, its rich-media plug-in for web browsers.

The beta version of the Flash rival was announced on Wednesday at Microsoft's MIX09 event in Las Vegas. Silverlight 3 makes it possible for the first time to run Silverlight web applications outside the browser.

Enhancements include native support for H.264 video and Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), as well as support for high-definition and 3D graphics. Graphics processing unit (GPU) acceleration is also supported.

Microsoft also announced that French IT company Soyatec, a member of the Eclipse Foundation, will produce a community technology preview of Eclipse Tools for Silverlight (Eclipse4SL) for Apple's Macintosh, so Mac developers can create rich internet applications (RIAs) for the Silverlight platform. In a statement, Microsoft said its funding of this venture demonstrated its "continued commitment to openness and interoperability".

Silverlight 3 includes more than 60 controls with source code, including new layout containers and autocomplete, tree-view and datagrid controls. So-called 'deep linking' is now supported, so pages within RIAs can be bookmarked.

The out-of-browser capabilities found in Silverlight 3 are analogous to what can be achieved with Adobe's AIR platform.

According to the Silverlight website, out-of-browser Silverlight applications will use the security features of the .NET framework, running "inside a secure sandbox with persistent isolated storage".

Microsoft says such applications have "most of the same security restrictions" as normal web applications, and can therefore be run without the need for security warnings or prompts.

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