Today Microsoft launched its latest effort to "Light up the web", Silverlight 3 which is now available for download.
Silverlight has come a long way since its version 1.0 launched in 2007. It has even attracted big players like Netflix who use it as their primary video player. 3.0 brings a host of improvements such as "Smooth Streaming" and "out of browser experiences". Web developers will also appreciate the built in support for GPU acceleration.
Silverlight 3 introduces more than 50 new features, including 3D support, GPU acceleration, H.264 video support and out-of-the-browser capabilities to Silverlight.. The out-of-browser support will enable developers to build applications that work like Adobe's AIR plugin. Dramatic video performance and quality improvements are also included.
One of my personal favorite features of 3.0 is the inclusion of Microsoft's Smooth Streaming, the development of which was spearheaded by the Zune team. First shown at this year's E3, Smooth streaming allows you to watch 720P+ video instantly... with no buffering. You can see sample of how it works at the official site http://www.iis.net/media/experiencesmoothstreaming .Silverlight & Smooth Streaming was most recently used during Michael Jackson's memorial service at the Staples Center live in Los Angeles. The quality and scaling was amazing, it could take the Live stream from sub-YouTube quality to 720P+ in a matter of seconds .
Only time will tell if Silverlight can make market share progress against Flash, but if 3.0 is any indication of future releases of Silverlight. Flash may want to start keeping an eye in its rearview mirror.
I ran some quick unscientific tests to see how Silverlight & Flash stacked up when it came to CPU useage. They where tested on a Quad Core PC with 4 GB's of ram. I tested a Youtube "HQ" stream Vs Silverlight Smooth Streaming in HD. As you can see from the results, Silverlight not only had lower CPU usage, but it also used the four cores more uniformly.
Silverlight 3.0 is available for download right now at http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/resources/install.aspx