Microsoft takes Silverlight beyond Windows

The software giant will let .Net and Ruby developers write Web applications for Windows and the Mac.Video: Silverlight in action
Written by Martin LaMonica, Contributor
LAS VEGAS--Microsoft plans to extend its mainstream development tooling to Silverlight, its Flash challenger, and add support for dynamic languages.

At the Mix '07 Web developer and designer conference here, Microsoft executives said the company will allow .Net developers to create applications for Silverlight, its alternative to Adobe Systems' Flash format.

Microsoft on Monday released an alpha version of Silverlight 1.1 that will allow people to write applications using .Net applications such as C#. Version 1.0 of Silverlight will be available this summer.

The Silverlight 1.1 download will include an edition of the .Net framework that will allow .Net applications to run on Windows or the Safari Macintosh browser.

In addition, Microsoft has developed the Dynamic Language Runtime, software that allows developers to write .Net applications using dynamic, or scripting, languages.

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Specifically, Scott Guthrie, general manager in Microsoft's Server and Tools division, announced IronRuby, a version of the Ruby language for .Net. Over the past few years, Microsoft has hired experts in dynamic languages, including Python and JavaScript, to expand support for these languages.

Like IronPython--the version of Python for .Net--the source code for IronRuby will be available with an open source-style license, Guthrie said.

During his keynote speech, Guthrie showed how .Net tooling, including Microsoft's flagship Visual Studio and Expression Studio design tool, can be used for tasks such as debugging and coding on both Windows- and Macintosh-based browser applications.

A number of Microsoft partners showed off how they used Silverlight and the software giant's design and development tools to create media-based interactive applications.

MLB.com, for example, plans to launch a Silverlight media player this summer that will include enhancements to its current video offerings, according to MLB.com executives.

MLB.com has built a player that overlays statistical information, such as pitch count, over the video stream that the user can customize. With Silverlight, people can dynamically reshape video screens as they are streaming, said Justin Shaffer, chief architect of MLB.com.

Shaffer also showed off a version of Silverlight running on a future version of Windows Mobile that allows end users to view live games.

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Mike Warriner, chief technology officer of Intelligent Environments, an online banking application provider, said he liked the idea of having his current C# programmers write Silverlight applications. Rather than hire contract Flash developers, the company could use its staff of programmers and still have applications run on different operating systems, he said.

The outstanding question is whether Microsoft plans to offer Silverlight support for Linux. Although support for Flash for Linux lags behind Windows and Mac, Warriner noted that his company can still count on Flash Web applications running on Linux.

"Linux lets us say to the customer, 'This thing is ubiquitous,'" Warriner said. "Otherwise, we have to build a version of the Web site for Linux, which is expensive."

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