Round-up of Silverlight

My own stuff of course…
Robert Scoble
Ryan Stewart
Mary Jo Foley
WPF Wonderland
Tim Sneath (pre-today’s additional announcements)
Channel 9


Silverlight Streaming service fees – not free forever


While the product is in pre-release, storage and delivery is free up to 4 GB, with outbound streaming up to DVD quality (700 Kbps). As we move out of Beta, developers/designers will have continued use of the service with up to 1 million minutes of free video streaming at 700 Kpbs per site per month. Unlimited streaming will also be available for free with advertising, or with payment of a nominal fee for the service for use without advertising.

If I can get 1 million minutes at 700kps, can I get 2 million minutes at 350kbps, or is it 1 million minutes at up to 700kbps? How will it be measured?

Is this available globally?

And more ‘small print’ – you can only have a 4.3 min video at 700kps.

If the Silverlight application contains a video, the video file must be smaller than 22 MB.
This is equivalent to a continuous video stream of 10 minutes at 300 Kbps. If the video stream is encoded at any higher bitrate, it will have to be shorter than 10 minutes.
For example, if the video stream is encoded at the highest allowed bitrate of 700 Kbps, the maximum length of the video is just below 4.3 minutes.

Free is still good though.

Silverlight on a stick

The coolest keynote “sex on a stick” moment was probably when Scott Guthrie showed how you could set a break point using Visual Studio Orcas on Windows in Silverlight project .NET code, run the Silverlight output in a browser on a Mac, attach to the remote Silverlight instance, and break in the debugger on the Windows machine when he clicked a button on the Mac…

It’s really hairy down in the machine debug processes, and getting that working cross-platform ‘was not easy’ as Scott said.

Silverlight – what IS cool about it?

Forget the misleading flashy 3D-portaying video at for a second; ignore the fact that this puppy has not yet been released yet; pretend that lack of A/V live capture is not an important feature; overlook the 4MB download… what balances this out – what makes it really cool?

Windows Presentation Foundation is the very designer-friendly set of classes and runtime (developed against using XAML directly or through Expression and Visual Studio Orcas) that enables rich UI experiences. It is available for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and is included with Windows Vista, as part of .NET 3.0. At the risk of breaking the benefits of consitent UI investments, it can be used to build extremely compelling applications.

A subset of WPF, first known as WPF/e, makes up the rendering engine of Silverlight. The Silverlight runtime includes not only this subset of the runtime, but also the runtime to play back Windows Media content (on-demand or live). This runtime is ~1MB, so far.

XAML can define animations and behaviours that need no coding. In the 1.0 release, you can write javascript against the runtime-instantiated object model to provide a rich interactive experience.

The Silverlight runtime works in IE & Firebox on Windows, but also in Safari on the Mac! In a later release, it will also work in Windows Mobile and possibly Symbian devices.

At this point you have Flash (more or less) but with the whole weight of the Microsoft development eco-system behind you. Most notably, Microsoft has released a set of Graphic Designer tools under the Expression brand that allow you to design vector/bitmap graphics, design the interactive experience, design the web site and manage and prepare the audio/video media. Expression Web and Blend (web and UI tools) are included in various MSDN subscriptions. It’s not clear if Microsoft Partner will get it for free. The full Expression Studio (with all 4 tools) is priced at US$599 at retail which isn’t bad. The Media Encoder is a tag-along-later free download for preparing audio and video.

The next version of Visual Studio (codenamed “Orcas”) will include native support for Silverlight projects.

Microsoft is providing a free (up to 4GB) hosting service in Silverlight Streaming to people can get their content out there using this new platform. This is a smart move for sure.

That’s a lot of WOW – perhaps more flashy of a UI than Vista presents even.

If that’s not enough, then Microsoft has a 1.1 version of Silverlight (which probably should be 2.0) that will allow .NET programming against the runtime, instead of JavaScript, along with full project support in Visual Studio Orcas. This is a subset of the .NET 3.0 framework – a very small subset focusing on the CLR core, networking, UI. This brings rich smart application right into your browser that can be authored by ALL .NET developers with most of their existing skills along side graphic designers using the complimentary set of tools in the Expression range. That’s a lot of industry weight!

(UPDATE: As Yuvi pointed out, it will be a subset of .NET 3.5 by then, rather than .NET 3.0)

A .NET developer can create rich experience on the Web without writing any HTML! He/she can practically be a Mac developer by running a Windows-like smart/rich-client application inside a browser on a Mac!

Microsoft also has an open-source initiative for a Dynamic Language Runtime to allow other languages like Ruby and Python to be used instead of the mainstay C# and VB.NET.

They are also including LINQ in the .NET subset to allow some cool data query syntax in the coding.

Being able to access Web Services from Silverlight combines the best of rich UI with powerful backend services.

With the addition of the full Silverlight product (1.1) you can now do .NET development on the windows desktop, on the windows server, on windows and other mobile devices (compact framework and Silverlight .net runtime), on the mac (and other platforms that may be supported later).

It’s not revolutionary, the tools are lagging behind the runtime, the runtimes are still in beta… and the “web 2.0” and consumer web space is very busy (flickr, youtube, etc.), so it will be interesting to see if clear killer apps can emerge.

See the details a the regular Silverlight site, the community site and the Expression site.

Disappointing Silverlight release schedule

Today – April 30 2007

  • 1.0 Beta
  • Silverlight Streaming Beta service
  • 1.1 Alpha
  • Full Expression suite 1.0 (leaving software developers in the dust with 6+ months waiting for Visual Studio Orcas)
  • Expression Blend 2.0 preview

‘Summer 2007’

  • 1.0 Release

Undisclosed timeframe

  • 1.1 Release
  • 1.1 Tools for Visual Studio – tied to Visual Studio Orcas release
  • Mobile device support – which could be a real flash killer

That’s a long time to wait to be able to use this technology. Will there be a Go Live license for this stuff?

Silverlight will become Silverheavy

The current silverlight 1.0 beta is about 1.38MB (not the 1MB spoken about by Microsoft).

The 1.1 alpha (which includes a subset of .NET) is 4.24MB!

That’s not big for broadband but let’s not be arrogant and assume everyone has that yet.

In terms of competing with Flash, which it does – no doubt – the issue is really about ease of installation. Flash was first installed on systems with Windows 95/98 were everyone has administrator rights. Installation on Vista will be blocked without administration rights which are not granted by default (even to administrators which must temporarily elevate their rights).

Note that Scott Guthrie demonstrationed is ~20 second install on XP SP2, not Vista with it’s “Cancel or Allow” guardian.

Some people may have forgotton that Click Once gives a web distrbution model for full .NET application and the .NET user Controls can already be hosted in IE.

Microsoft must use Windows/Microsoft Update to push through this technology if they want to see rapid adoption, or a good set of compelling applications – is Major League Baseball (a demo at Mix) really that popular with the rest of the world?

Silverlight = Windows in a browser

If you are feeling the heat from other platforms, what do you do?

You put your rich experience into many browsers, so that HTML compatibility is no longer an issue, and neither is a different operating system.

Silverlight 1.0 beta has a subset of Windows Presentation Foundation. 1.1 alpha (a 4.25MB download) has a subset of the .NET framework (a 4.24MB download for the alpha).

This brings the rich smart (and the whole developer infrastructure behind it – once the tools come out) right across the board in terms of platforms.

Microsoft leaving software developers behind at Mix07

Microsoft today announced the release of the Expression tools suite. These tools including XAML and Silverlight support.

XAML support is not due to be released for about 6+ months in Visual Studio Orcas. Silverlight inclusion of .NET (‘announced’ today) has no timeframe, and Silverlight support in VS requires Orcas; same problem.

If you’re a software developer you have no supported tools for doing cool web stuff. If you are a graphic/web designer you now have some cool stuff.

Perhaps the mantra should now be “Designers, designers, designers”

Silverlight announcements at Mix07

1: Silverlight re-announcement (
2: It now comes with a .NET redistributable (that it’s in alpha – groan!)
3: Silverlight Streaming – A free hosting/streaming service for people to delivering Silverlight solutions

The good news, Microsoft Expression ( is also now released (except the Media Encoder I believe)

The bad news, is that while there’s a Silverlight kit for Visual Studio, it’s for VS Orcas which is still in beta.

UPDATE: See my updates with the Mix07 for various updates and comments.