Microsoft Christens Adobe Flash Rival 'Silverlight'

"We feel it's very important that we have a brand," Microsoft Developer Division group product manager Brian Goldfarb said about Microsoft's decision to launch with a jazzier name than "WPF/E." Microsoft unveiled the new name at the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference, in Las Vegas.

Due for release by the end of June, Sliverlight is Microsoft's new technology for delivering online rich-application features like video and animation. Its programming model incorporates Web standards such as XML (Extensible Markup Language), JavaScript and a subset of technologies from the WPF graphical presentation system that underpins Vista.

Like Adobe's ubiquitous Web multimedia technology, the Silverlight client will be a cross-browser plug-in application. Supported browsers include Internet Explorer 6 and 7, Firefox 1.5 and 2.0, and Safari.

Silverlight is part of a broad technology wave Microsoft hopes will make inroads into the Web design and development market and rattle the space's dominant leader, Adobe. The company's new Expression suite of design and development applications will soon ship, and will be in the spotlight at Microsoft's Mix conference in Las Vegas at the end of the month.

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Silverlight will go head-to-head with Adobe's Flash, a venerable Web development platform with wide adoption: Adobe estimates that Flash is installed on 95 percent of Internet-connected devices worldwide.

Still, Microsoft is bullish on Silverlight's prospects. In addition to appealing to developers already versed in Microsoft's development platform and tools, Silverlight will offer advantages unmatched by other technologies, such as support for full-screen high-definition video, Goldfarb said.

Microsoft has also lined up a handful of heavy-hitting early adopters, including Netflix and Major League Baseball. Since Microsoft's distribution strategy relies on end-user requests to install the Silverlight client, winning share among online content and services Web sites with mass audiences will be key to establishing Silverlight as a viable development platform.

"This is where it comes down to the partner community," Goldfarb said. "Distribution is going to be content-driven."

Adobe said Monday that it is shipping Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium and Standard editions and Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium and Standard editions as well as their component point products. The suites run on both Power PC- and intel-based Macs.