Microsoft ready for Silverlight's second act

The software maker announces Silverlight 2 and new partners. Despite big numbers for the Olympics, though, Silverlight usage still vastly trails that of its dominant rival, Adobe Flash.

Updated 9:20 a.m. PDT, with comments from conference call and at 10:20 with additional comments regarding Silverlight and the iPhone.

Silverlight

Microsoft on Monday announced, as expected , that it is ready with a final version of its Silverlight 2 media player.

Silverlight 2 will be available for download starting Tuesday, Microsoft said. Among the new features are support for digital rights management technology, improved cross-platform support and deep zoom technology. Microsoft also announced a range of new partners including AOL, Blockbuster, CBS College Sports, Toyota, and Yahoo Japan.

Microsoft also disclosed some numbers for the Olympics work it did with NBC . Over a 17-day period, Microsoft said NBCOlympics.com had more than 50 million unique visitors, resulting in 1.3 billion page views, 70 million video streams, and 600 million minutes of video watched.

Overall, Microsoft said the Olympics helped boost Silverlight's U.S. penetration by 30 percent, the software maker said.

"We launched Silverlight just over a year ago, and already one in four consumers worldwide has access to a computer with Silverlight already installed," Microsoft developer unit VP Scott Guthrie said in a statement.

Still, that means Silverlight continues to have a very long way to go to compete with Flash, which is installed on nearly all Windows PCs.

On a conference call, Guthrie said that in some countries, Silverlight already has 50 percent penetration. He said he expected deployments would "accelerate quite nicely" as some of the sites that require Silverlight 2 get up and running. In all, he said he expects hundreds of millions of PCs to be running Silverlight 2 "very quickly."

"Certainly coming out with a new browser plug-in is an ambitious project," Guthrie said. "We knew it was going to take a couple of years to get where we need to be."

Guthrie said he feels pretty good that Silverlight is already at the one in four number and said that the company will continue to do deals to boost penetration, as it has with HP which includes Silverlight on its PCs.

Existing users of both Silverlight as well as the Silverlight 2 beta will be automatically be upgraded to Silverlight 2 over the coming weeks, he said.

Later in the call, Guthrie reiterated Microsoft's interest in trying to see Silverlight running on the iPhone.

"We have talked with Apple," he said. "We are very interested in being able to run on the iPhone."

However, he said that Apple ultimately controls what types of software run on the iPhone and right now they are not looking to enable browser plug-ins of any flavor. "They might in the future," he said. "Right now that isn't an option for any vendor"

Google's G1 Android phone is another story, Guthrie said. "That is an open platform," he said. "That is something we are going to look at."

As for compatibility with Google's Chrome browser, Guthrie said the initial release had a couple of issues with Silverlight, but he said that in the latest developer release of Chrome, Silverlight 2 works "fantastically well."

Disclosure: CBS College Sports is a unit of CBS, as is CBS Interactive, which publishes CNET News.

About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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