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Microsoft debuts Silverlight update

Bill Gates uses the company's TechEd conference to show off updates to its Flash competitor, as well as other tools.

Microsoft is launching a revamped test version of its Silverlight software that is designed to broaden the appeal of the company's answer to Adobe Systems' Flash.

Chairman Bill Gates was set to announce Silverlight 2 beta 2 on Tuesday morning at Microsoft's TechEd conference in Orlando, Fla. Gates was also slated to unveil a partnership with IBM to make it easier to build DB2 database applications using Microsoft's tools, as well as updates to other Microsoft tools.

Bill Gates speaking in Redmond, Wash. last month. Ina Fried/CNET

The new release of Silverlight, which will be available for download on Tuesday, includes support for Microsoft's .Net Framework, the company's programming model for building Windows applications, which will likely make it more appealing to established Windows programmers, said Jonathan Perera, general manager of Microsoft's Application Platform Division.

"If Silverlight 1.0 was about what people could do on their Web sites, Silverlight 2.0 is about what people can do on their interactive applications," Perera said.

The initial release of Silverlight, a browser plug-in for rich interactive applications such as audio-video playback and animation, has yet to diminish the popularity of Flash, though the revamped release could fare better thanks to the .Net support. Microsoft estimates that there are about 4 million .Net developers worldwide.

Microsoft also debuted a technology preview of software code named Velocity that makes it easier to build Web applications that include an in-memory data cache, such as Web commerce applications. For programmers, Velocity can ease the burden of application memory management and other complex tasks, said Perera.