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Streaming Media East 2007: Keynote Sheds More Light on Silverlight
Microsoft's Sean Alexander showed off Silverlight and the Expression Studio suite, and even the skeptics at Streaming Media East seemed cautiously optimistic that Microsoft is now fully focused on the media space.
Tues., May 15, by Steve Mack

The tools look good, but until we all get a chance to work with them it’s impossible to pass any firm judgments. That being said, the new media encoder looks fantastic, with alpha channel support and frame-by-frame encoding comparisons. It’s the update that we’ve been waiting for for years. Design looks like a good simple graphics program, and Blend looks like a good coding environment. The best part was that the tools are clearly meant to work together, with a consistent look and feel throughout. Alexander pointed out that there is often a disconnect between designers and coders involved in a project, and that the goal of the Expression Suite is to allow people to work in parallel on projects, as opposed to "throwing things over the fence" and hoping for the best. It’s a noble goal, and a very good step in the right direction.

An interesting aspect of creating Silverlight presentations is that instead of a single file, you end up with a folder full of files. The video is separate from the graphics, which are separate from the code, and so on. This is a distinct change from what us content creators are used to, but I believe this is going to prove to be a wise approach. By separating the media from the code, it should allow a lot more flexibility, particularly when it comes time to change a presentation.

If all this seems a bit overwhelming, you’re not alone. It’s hard to grasp just how far-reaching the Silverlight announcement is. Microsoft is refocusing its media strategy, and given the size and scope of the announcement, they’re not kidding around. They’re addressing the need for richer, more interactive media experiences. They’re building an extensible platform to create and distribute these experiences. They’ve built a suite of tools to build the experiences. Heck, they’re even offering 4GB of storage and free distribution of files up to 10 minutes long, at a maximum of 700Kbps, with the Silverlight Streaming service. Make no mistake—this is a bold move by Microsoft, even if it is somewhat overdue.

Taking a straw poll amongst attendees, I’d say that folks are "cautiously optimistic." Folks who are accustomed to writing code and developing software products are excited about Silverlight’s possibilities. More traditional content creators are liking the look of the new media encoder and the expanded capabilities of the new server. There’s a lot of potential in all of this, and knowing that Microsoft is now fully focused on the media space can only be a good thing. The 1.0 release is due out this summer (right about the time Adobe launches its Apollo project?). Let’s see what the future holds.