Microsoft's Silverlight wins over Discovery

The Discovery Channel's newest project to enhance viewers' experience was built using the Flash rival and will go live on July 1.

International Web development firm @www has built a new user interface for TV broadcaster the Discovery Channel using Microsoft's Silverlight--the software giant's challenger to Adobe's Flash.

@www client services director Nicholas Ratsey told Microsoft's ReMix Developers conference attendees in Melbourne today the Discovery Channel wanted to create a rich user experience for viewers. And according to Ratsey, "it has worked well".

The interface for the current text-only Never Miss TV video site--set to go live on July 1 across Southeast Asia--offers a range of content accessible via a single click.

Additions such as roll-down menus, personalized playlists and smooth scrolling through content were completed just two weeks after @www developers took their first look at Silverlight.

Microsoft announced Silverlight back in May in the United States to provide a consistent cross-platform user interface for Web applications. The framework, which is being formally launched in Australia Monday, is built around XAML (extensible application markup language) and works with all major Web browsers.

The software maker is counting on the Silverlight application framework--version 1.0 to be released during winter and v1.1 by year's end -- to claw back market share from Adobe's Flash and Shockwave, the currently preferred platforms for interactive online media.

Microsoft's group product manager Brian Goldfarb said during his conference keynote: "When we're talking about the user experience, we're not just talking about great visual design."

According to Goldfarb, Microsoft hopes it will lure back developers who are already skilled with its development tools, but have struggled to smoothly translate design concepts online using existing tools.

He said the divide between creative designers and back-end developers has stifled many developments.

"Designers tend to design stuff that can't be built in the time available. Then, through compromise [with developers] we come up with the final product," he said.

"The problem is not production; the problem is in the process of specifying the design."

Goldfarb believes Silverlight--and the related Expression Studio range of content development and management tools--will bridge that gap.

"The premise of this is that rather than have designers describe the user interface for someone else to build, if we give designers the right tools they can build the user interface themselves," he said.

"They can lose the 'Chinese whispers' problem of having designers designing stuff that can't be built--because they will have just built it."