Microsoft Enhances Silverlight As Adobe Gives Flash Hi-Def Boost Silverlight multimedia player

Tafiti takes advantage of Silverlight's graphical capabilities to make searching the Web a more visual experience. Users can drag search results to a visual "glass shelf" to save search results, allowing results from multiple search queries to be culled and compiled in one windows. Tafiti also offers a "tree view," which organizes search results as leaves and branches on an illustrated tree that rotates gently in the virtual breeze.

The tree is a love-it-or-hate-it feature, concedes Tafiti's co-creator, Seattle software design and development firm Jackson Fish Market. In a blog post describing the tree's impetus, Jackson Fish co-founder Hillel Cooperman (a former Microsoft design director) calls it a tricked-out screensaver that slowly cycles through Live Search hits, gradually turning the green "leaves" marking the results autumnal as the result ages and fades to make way for a new link.

"I know this is kind of an esoteric feature, but we think there's something interesting there in terms of browsing the Live Search index in a deeper way than most users ever do," Cooperman wrote. "It was also cool that Microsoft was willing to let us experiment with a feature that's a little different than what people might expect."

Whether or not Tafiti catches on as a search tool is almost beside the point: It's a showcase for Microsoft's evolving "Web 2.0" technology set, as well as its design and information architecture skills and strategies. With Silverlight, Microsoft hopes to win Web multimedia market share away from Adobe, which has significant loyalty among Web developers and designers for its Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator software.

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Tafiti is a fitting name for Microsoft's aspiring market disruptor: Swahili for "to do research," the word "tafiti" also translates as " to meddle" or "interfere," according to the Kamusi Project online Swahili dictionary.

Silverlight's impending launch has fired up Adobe's competitive zeal. Its most ambitious new effort is AIR (formerly Apollo), a prototype client runtime that goes a step beyond Flash to unify online and offline content.

Adobe is also enhancing its flagship Flash to keep up with cutting-edge technology. A new Flash update released yesterday in beta adds support for the H.264 video standard, the high-definition standard used by Blue-Ray, Apple's iTunes and iPhone, and YouTube.