Microsoft hopes users see the (Silver) light

At an event in San Francisco, Microsoft launches the latest version of Silverlight, its would-be rival to Adobe's Flash.

Microsoft Senior VP S. Somasegar notes that the early posting of Silverlight 3 to the Web was an accident and not a "clever marketing ploy."
Microsoft Senior VP S. Somasegar notes that the early posting of Silverlight 3 to the Web was an accident and not a "clever marketing ploy." Ina Fried/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft kicked off its latest effort to challenge Adobe's Flash by launching Silverlight 3 at an event Friday.

The code actually made its debut a little early, hitting the Web on Thursday.

In his opening remarks on Friday, Microsoft Senior Vice President S. Somasegar made reference to Silverlight's premature release.

"I can tell you it wasn't a clever marketing ploy," Somegar said. "It was sort of a small mistake that somebody made and we decided to let it go."

Silverlight still has a long way to go to match Flash's ubiquity, with Adobe's technology found on nearly all PCs and a growing number of cell phones. Microsoft says Silverlight 2 is now on one in three Internet devices. That version launched nine months ago.

Silverlight has had a mixed record in its initial efforts to take streaming business from Adobe's Flash. It has scored key deals to power NBC's 2008 Summer and 2010 Winter Olympics sites.

It also won a deal to power Major League Baseball's Web site, but the league went back to Flash for the 2009 season, blaming stability and other issues, according to sources.

Among the new features in Silverlight 3 are the ability to create Silverlight applications that run outside the browser as well as support for a "smooth streaming" technology that allows video to be streamed at up to 1080p HDTV quality.

Microsoft announced a couple new customers for Silverlight on Friday including MGM which is using it to produce SGU: Stargate Universe site and Continental Airlines, which is remaking its reservation call-center application as a Silverlight application running via a Web browser. NBC also said it will use Silverlight for its high-quality video streaming across its sporting events.

As part of Friday's event, Microsoft also said version 3 of its Expression design tools will be available within the next 30 days. A release candidate version of one component, Expression Blend 3, was posted on Thursday to Microsoft's Web site.

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