According to an April 4 post on the Silverlight Team Blog, Microsoft will be making a beta of Silverlight 5 available the week of April 11, concurrent with the Mix '11 conference.
The timing was widely expected, given that Microsoft officials said in December 2010 that the company planned to release a Silverlight 5 beta in the second calendar quarter of 2011. The final version of Silverlight 5 is due before the end of calendar 2011.
In December, Microsoft execs said Silverlight 5 would include 40 new features, the bulk of which are focused around making Silverlight a development platform for rich media and business applications.
The April 4 blog post -- signed by Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie, Corporate VP Walid Abu-Habdha and Senior Vice President Soma Somasegar -- also notes that Microsoft plans to share more about its HTML5 tooling strategy in the near-term. From the post:
"While we have emphasized the role of HTML5 as the foundation of the recently released Internet Explorer 9 and have shown an unprecedented commitment to being leaders in HTML5 browsers, we have probably not emphasized enough the tooling for HTML5. We're going to emphasize that much more going forward as the clarity of feedback and the emphasis our customers want us to place on these tools for the professional toolbox is clear. It would be fair to say to the degree we did not emphasize the above we made up for it in our emphasis in Silverlight as a runtime (and by extension XAML)."
The recently announced Expression Web Studio 4 Service Pack 1 and Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1 both include some additional HTML5 support. But it sounds like there will be even more HTML5 tooling coming from Microsoft, from what I've heard.
The rest of the Silverlight Team Blog post restates (yet again) Microsoft's latest positioning around HTML5 and Silverlight. The post authors said that Microsoft isn't favoring one technology over another and that there is room for both. Because the authors are affiliated with Microsoft's Developer Division (the Silverlight champions), not Windows Client (the HTML5 champions), the understandable emphasis in the post is on the future of "plug ins" (i.e., Silverlight as a browser plug-in). From the post:
"Today, plug-ins and standards play complementary roles, and as a practical matter there is no single technology to satisfy all the needs demanded by client development. While much has been written about a diminishing gap between the capabilities of HTML5 and capabilities provided by plug-ins, plug-ins will continue to evolve and so there will likely be a gap of some degree, and it will cyclically contract and expand. Contraction occurs as the standard specification 'catches up' with the plug-in technologies, and then expands again as the next wave of innovation pushes the boundary further forward."
I'll be interested to see how much of the "Silverlight vs. HTML5" positioning wars inside Microsoft actually make it into the Mix sessions and keynotes next week. One session that should be fun and interesting is Vertigo CEO Scott Stanfield's "HTML5 for Skeptics."