Today at MIX09, Microsoft Corp. announced a set of platform investments to help companies more efficiently and affordably engage with their customers through a rich, interactive presence on the Web. This includes the release of Microsoft Silverlight 3 Beta and Expression Blend 3 Preview, and continued progress in the cloud with updates to the Azure Services Platform. The company also pointed to strong momentum in platform adoption and demonstrated a number of solutions from key partners including Netflix Inc., Bondi Digital Publishing, StackOverflow.com and KEXP. In addition, building on the success of Silverlight during the Beijing Games, NBC Universal has again chosen Silverlight to deliver the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games on its official Web site, NBCOlympics.com.
The Business Imperative of a Return on Experience
Organizations that create more intuitive, more engaging experiences on the Web are able to reduce costs and increase sales. Their visitors find the information they want faster, their customers make fewer calls to support help desks, and the number of impulse purchases made by customers generated grows dramatically. The integrated and interoperable offerings from Microsoft, composed of software and services for desktop, datacenters and the cloud, help organizations deliver richer, more compelling experiences that they require both in and out of the browser, and give them enhanced “return on experience” that the current economic climate demands.
Silverlight 3 Beta Released
Silverlight 3 empowers Web developers and designers to build the best experiences for their customers through the creation of cutting-edge Web applications. Silverlight 3 helps rich Internet application (RIA) developers work faster with new graphics, animation and 3-D features, and more than 60 controls. Silverlight 3 also ushers in a new generation of high-quality and high-definition video experiences with true high-definition video in full-screen mode, with stutter-free live and on-demand video. Silverlight 3 also gives users more video format choices than ever before, including H.264, along with enhancements such as deep linking, to improve navigation in Silverlight content and automate search engine optimization (SEO) tasks. Finally, Silverlight 3 enables developers to create lightweight Web application experiences that can exist outside the browser. This enables Web sites to deliver more persistent relationships with their customers.
Microsoft also announced Expression Blend 3 Preview, designed to dramatically improve designer and developer workflow and productivity. In the MIX09 keynote address, Microsoft demonstrated SketchFlow, a new capability that allows designers to quickly prototype the flow and composition of applications. Now, for the first time, designers can easily receive annotated feedback on prototypes from stakeholders and rapidly iterate on a project from concept to completion. In addition, Expression Blend directly supports the import of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files (including layers and paths), integration of live preview sample data, and a comprehensive set of rich behaviors.
“In the short time since we launched Silverlight and Expression Blend, Microsoft has rapidly introduced new features and functionality that enable customers to deliver outstanding Web sites,” said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Platform at Microsoft. “We are working closely with the community to deliver software that helps businesses provide customer experiences on the Web that go beyond ‘good enough’ and drive real business results.”
Microsoft also announced that Soyatec, a France-based IT solutions provider and Eclipse Foundation member, is making available a community technology preview (CTP) of Eclipse Tools for Silverlight (Eclipse4SL) support for Macintosh. With this Eclipse plug-in, Mac developers can create RIAs for the Silverlight platform. This project is funded by Microsoft as part of Microsoft’s continued commitment to openness and interoperability.
Silverlight Customer Adoption
Silverlight has made significant progress since it was launched at MIX07. Hundreds of thousands of developers and designers are using Silverlight, and leading organizations such as AOL LLC, eBay Inc., BSkyB Ltd., Netflix Inc., CBS Sports Online, the European Commission, CareerBuilder.com, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Yahoo! Japan are building their next-generation rich applications and media experiences using Silverlight.
“Netflix chose Silverlight because it makes a faster and more agile development environment possible, allowing Netflix to quickly deliver a superior instant watching experience to our subscribers,” said Steve Swasey, vice president of corporate communications at Netflix. “When Netflix deployed Silverlight last fall, Netflix members realized a richer experience of access and quality to instantly watch movies and TV episodes from Netflix on their PCs and, for the first time, were able to instantly watch the same content on their Intel-based Macintosh computers.”
At Microsoft, more than 200 products and Web sites are now using Silverlight, including Microsoft.com, MSN, Live Search, Windows Live, Microsoft Office Online, Virtual Earth and the live preview release of the Silverlight-based WorldWide Telescope application.
Easier Access to Developer Tools, Platforms, and Applications
Today, Microsoft also released several components of the Microsoft Web Platform, an integrated set of tools, servers and frameworks that work seamlessly together and interoperate with popular open source applications and products that are used in the community. Included in the Microsoft Web Platform vision is the Web Platform Installer 2.0 Beta, a tool that simplifies the installation and update of Microsoft’s free Web products and other free Web components. This release allows users to download both PHP and the final release of ASP.NET MVC 1.0. Microsoft also launched the Windows Web Application Gallery, which allows developers to discover, explore and download applications and components that will help them build Web applications. Developers can submit free applications into the Gallery, offering communities, partners and independent software vendors access to millions of Windows developers worldwide for promoting their Web solutions. The Gallery includes links to popular applications such as Acquia Drupal, DotNetNuke and WordPress.
Finally, Microsoft also announced the availability of Microsoft Commerce Server 2009, which allows businesses to create improved user experiences across e-commerce channels.
Deepening Cloud Investments With the Azure Services Platform
In addition to platform investments to enable front-end experiences, enhancements to the back-end platform include updates to the Azure Services Platform. Today Microsoft announced new capabilities in Windows Azure including support for full trust to increase the level of flexibility for developers through support of native code, non-.NET language support via FastCGI, and geolocation to provide developers with the capability to host data and code across two U.S.-based datacenters; this enables customers to store data in multiple locations while helping ensure business continuity, and delivers enhanced performance benefits through reduced network latency.
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