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Silverlight 5 RC: Microsoft Reinforces Their Commitment with Many New Features

by Abel Avram on Sep 02, 2011 |

Microsoft has announced Silverlight 5 RC ahead of the BUILD conference, making sure the are no more questions about their commitment regarding their favorite browser plug-in technology. Silverlight 5 has many new features, including: 2D and 3D graphics rendered via the GPU, remote video control, P/Invoke support, in-browser trusted applications, better performance and tools.

There was very little mentioned about Silverlight, especially during keynotes, at PDC 2010, and the lack of information culminated with Bob Muglia’s remark that “our [Microsoft’s] strategy has shifted”. The effect was that developers, inside and outside Microsoft, were left with a big question mark regarding Silverlight’s future. In order to calm down the fears that they might stop investing in Silverlight, Microsoft launched a Silverlight FireStarter event with Scott Guthrie outlining Silverlight’s 5 roadmap. To prevent such mishappening this year, Microsoft has announced Silverlight 5 RC two weeks ahead of the much anticipated Windows BUILD conference, where the focus is expected to be on Windows 8 and HTML5. The current release is for developers to prepare their applications for Silverlight 5 while the production version is to be shipped later this year.

Some of the new features appearing in Silverlight 5 are:

Media and rich UI

  • H.264 HD video is hardware decoded via the GPU
  • TrickPlay – playing the video at different speeds
  • The screen saver is not activated when the video is playing
  • Video remote control
  • Better DRM support

Graphics and Animation

  • GPU-accelerated 3D graphics API including in windows-less mode via IE9
  • 2D graphics rendered on the GPU
  • Animated UI transitions. For example, the addition of an item to a list is animated

Text

  • More clarity with Pixel Snapping
  • Multicolumn text
  • Text flow around containers
  • Support for double-click and Combobox type ahead

Performance

  • Lower network latency
  • XAML parser is faster
  • Support for 64-bit OSes

Tools

  • Visual Studio can profile the CPU, memory and threads
  • VS Team Test support

Other

  • P/Invoke support for calling native functions
  • TPL Tasks
  • Vector (Postscript) Printing
  • In-Browser Trusted Applications
  • PivotViewer Control

Silverlight 5 is rich in features, and Microsoft is trying to prove their commitment to the technology. But we need to see what happens at BUILD when the other shoe is expected to drop. How much is Microsoft investing in HTML5? And should businesses invest in a mature technology that is limited to Windows, with some support on Linux via Mono, or should they look for HTML5 cross-platform solutions? Perhaps a compromise is needed: rich business solutions for Windows are better served by Silverlight, while simple web applications that work on almost everything may be done with HTML5.

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