"WPF/E" becomes Silverlight, struts its video side

"WPF/E" becomes Silverlight, struts its video side

Summary: At the NAB conference this morning, Microsoft is giving us a first glimpse at Silverlight, the artist formerly known as "WPF/E". Because the announcement comes from the NAB conference, but also because it's one of Silverlights major strong points, Microsoft is talking a lot about video. I was briefed about Silverlight and the video infrastructure last week and I came away impressed.

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SilverlightAt the NAB conference this morning, Microsoft is giving us a first glimpse at Silverlight, the artist formerly known as "WPF/E". Because the announcement comes from the NAB conference, but also because it's one of Silverlights major strong points, Microsoft is talking a lot about video. I was briefed about Silverlight and the video infrastructure last week and I came away impressed. See the gallery for Silverlight goodness.

When you look at the explosion of Flash video and how it has transformed the web, it was easy to see that Microsoft had to get in. Flash video happened almost by accident, but it really energized Adobe and gave it even more street cred with consumers and media companies alike. The great thing about Flash video is that it just works, and that has been the major part of its success. But it does have some drawbacks. The On2 codec is excellent for the web, but for high definition content like movies, it lacks a bit. Flash also doesn't have native DRM (though that may change this week), so some of the big media companies refused to use it for any of their major properties. It's also a fairly expensive solution to implement streaming. The On2 encoder is expensive, and Flash Media server can also get expensive. The licensing is set up so that as your site becomes more and more popular, the costs rise very quickly. Silverlight finally gives Microsoft an easy web video solution. The Silverlight plugin runs on Mac and Windows, and supports all of the major browsers. It leverages the VC-1 codec which powers Windows Media and also has a fairly robust infrastructure that fits well into Microsoft's platform. For one thing, when you buy IIS, you have all the tools you need to encode and stream Windows Media Files. In addition, using VC-1 gets you a lot of third party tools. As an added bonus, its also supported by HD DVD and Blu-ray. The DRM capabilities of Windows Media are also a fairly well known commodity.

 HD Video

But despite what seems like a technology edge, Silverlight has a long way to go before it can be considered a competitor. The Flash Player is on 98% of machines, which means that media companies can bet that when they deliver content this way, nearly everyone can see it. With Silverlight, Microsoft is starting from scratch, and getting the kind of penetration that Flash has is going to be extremely difficult. They do have some good partnerships lined up though. They're working with MLB.com to provide video for the site. They also lined up Brigthcove, a company founded by Jeremy Allarie , whose company was bought by Macromedia. The fact that Brightcove signed up with Silverlight shows me that it's worth keeping an eye on despite the initial disadvantage.

Silverlight is a wide ranging product, and all aspects of it are going to affect things like penetration and partners. Right now, Microsoft is focusing on the video story, which I think is their best play. Later we'll hear about the developer side of Silverlight and how Microsoft is going to support rich, interactive web applications. That story may not be quite as good, but there is a beta of Silverlight coming at MIX, so we'll see.

Topic: Software Development

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  • 98% of Machines

    I read those statistics that flash player is on 98% of machines and just wanted to ask you if you have seen statistics that say that 98% of machines have flash player installed that is capable of running Flash video.

    My point is just that of the 98% are those all 100% capable of flash video? I would just say that I don't believe that is true. A lot of people don't update their flash player and that's a serious problem for flash video designers. I would say that saying all of those machines are capable of flash video right now just isn't the case, and that figure you are quoting is a bit misleading.

    I could also say the same thing for Windows Media Player, which a lot of machines are still running 7 or 8. In fact in a lot of corporate environments system administrators even block flash video along with quicktime and windows media player. So when we talk about acceptance we should remember that even today just because "everyone's running it" doesn't mean everyone can do it..
    DonBurnett
  • Flash Player numbers

    This link has penetration #s for Flash Player. I'm pretty sure users with v7 can play FLV files.

    http://www.adobe.com/products/player_census/flashplayer/version_penetration.html
    TomHobbes
  • I'm worried about the security implications.

    From Mike Harsh's blog: "So what is WPF/E? It is a cross-platform, cross-browser web technology that supports a subset of WPF XAML. WPF/E also has a friction-free install model and the download size we?re targeting is very small. WPF/E supports programmability through javascript for tight browser integration. The WPF/E package also contains a small, cross platform subset of the CLR and .NET Framework that can run C# or VB.NET code. Yes, we are bringing C# programming to the Mac."

    The bit I'm concerned about is this: "WPF/E also has a friction-free install model".

    Microsoft's "friction-free install models" have been a big-time security problem for the past decade. When they started down this road in 1997 the number of viruses and worms effecting windows increased by orders of magnitude, and became harder and harder to stop, because of their hard refusal to build a solid sandbox into their security model. They repeatedly poohpoohed sandboxed extensions like Java because of teh performance cost, and have continued to develop systems with "soft" sandboxes like the .NET framework since.

    And, look here, "The WPF/E package also contains a small, cross platform subset of the CLR and .NET Framework that can run C# or VB.NET code."

    I predict that this will prove a true windfall for malware authors.
    Resuna
  • Best of All

    The really cool thing about the newer players is that they use DRM so that you can't control what they do. If someone pushes a WPF or Flash app at you, it just runs.

    The advertising industry is obviously drooling over the opportunity since the user is left with the choice between blocking all Flash or WPF sources or letting them run his machine. (That assumes that he's running something other than an MS platform, where the options are restricted.)
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • RE: I welcome anything Microsoft has with open arms...

    Woohoo! Just about anything Microsoft touches lately seems to go down in a huge ball of fire! I'm excited to see the more they work on putting out a competing product the more it shows what a half-baked operating system and Company overall they have built. Expanding it to Mac and Windows means it will hit just under 25% of the servers on the market today; wow that's definitely going to be great for the 75% of flash-based hosting companies that run Linux/Unix variants.

    Short-sighted morons can't seem to get the concept that Google has mastered time and time again: Open Source is a proven methodology for success.
    MasterC