Microsoft Ushers Silverlight 4 Beta Into Spotlight

At the Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's corporate vice president for .NET, announced the public beta of Silverlight 4 and said Microsoft plans to launch it in the first half of 2010.

On Tuesday at PDC, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie described Silverlight as a tool for developing line of business applications and said Microsoft sees it bridging the world of Web apps and desktop apps. The fact that the Silverlight 4 beta includes links to SharePoint 2010, Office, and Internet Information Services (IIS) shows where Microsoft would like to take Silverlight in the future.

"Silverlight will be taking the classic Windows Forms and ASP.Net/Ajax into a more modern user experience," said Scott Stanfield, CEO of Richmond, Calif.-based Vertigo Software, a development firm that works extensively with Silverlight.

Video, Rich Internet Applications, and line of business applications are all key areas of focus for Vertigo, which has previously developed Silverlight-powered Web sites for the Beijing Olympics and the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

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Sharepoint development is another area in which Stanfield expects Silverlight 4 to flourish. "As Sharepoint apps get more sophisticated with better data visualization, that integration is going to expand," he said. "Microsoft is sending a message to the enterprise development community that it's time to pay attention to Silverlight."

The Silverlight 4 beta comes just four months after Microsoft's launch of Silverlight 3, which added support for H.264 video and a broader range of 3-D effects. In Silverlight 3, Microsoft also enabled Silverlight to run outside the browser for the first time, and Microsoft plans to expand this functionality in Silverlight 4.

For developers, this adds flexibility that leads to more solid applications. "Running outside the browser gives developers the behind the scenes ability to push the boundaries of sandboxing in terms of what apps are allowed to do," said Stanfield. "You can also have persistent sessions that extend far beyond a simple cookie."

The Silverlight 4 beta is a developer release that doesn't include "go-live" licensing or the end-user runtime of Silverlight 4, but does include forms controls, enterprise class networking and data access, and support for the .NET Common Runtime (CLR), which lets the same compiled code to be run on the desktop and Silverlight.