I wrote about Semblio some weeks ago and gritted my teeth the entire way through it. I thought I was a little hasty so I gave it another go. I spoke to Scott Burmester at Microsoft who talked me through what Semblio is now, and what it will evolve into.You will be impressed, I assure you.
Semblio has been released as an SDK (software development kit), but wasn't aimed at students. It was barely aimed at academia at all. It is designed for publishers and those who create content: books and rich media for example. This is so the industry can have a heads-up on the technologies involved.
Office 14, the next generation of office applications, will include the usual favourites, such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel. It will however include Semblio. This new application will expand the SDK into a user-interface friendly application, which will seamlessly fit in with the rest of the Office 14 applications.
The idea is relatively simple. The Semblio application will allow you to create and add rich content and objects, such as human-interaction applets which are all available in the existing Semblio SDK. As everything is created in the WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) format, it utilises the vector graphic scheme; enabling all images and text to be scalable with loss-less compression.
You would be able to aggregate rich content from a variety of sources, from Word and Office content, PDF's, and other third-party content such as Flash, YouTube, and Silverlight - naturally.
When saving and viewing, it'll wrap it up in a single filetype and will be viewable in the Semblio Player; a standalone application which views Semblio filetype, a little similar to Word Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer, or even Adobe Acrobat.
Semblio will be designed for students, and the team at Microsoft are aware that students have a busy social life as well as an academic life. Having the Semblio player available on multiple platforms, such as Linux and Mac is very important to them and are in the process of experimenting with these. There is even a possibility of an Xbox version of the Semblio Player so students can access their lecture content from anywhere.
If, for example, the file was a set of content created for a lecture - a mixture of YouTube videos, web pages, PowerPoint slides and text - you'd be able to aggregate it into one file type and distribute it to students via email or your virtual learning environment, and the student would be able to view it as if they were sat there in the lecture.
I asked about the screenshot published some months ago by Stephen Chapman, which seemed to show the first screenshot (at the time) of the highly anticipated Office 14. However, this was simply a concept image which you can see if you zoom in, and the user interface has not even been considered as of yet. The final user interface, will be in sync with the rest of the Office applications though.
"Semblio", codename Grava, as I have pointed out, was a bit of a silly name. However, on enquiry, seems to make a little more sense. "Semblio" has connotations towards the assembling of something, and "blio", the latter part to the name means "action" in a number of languages. With this we form assembly + action.
Semblio is expected, although not confirmed, to be released along with Office 14 in the first half of next year.