At an event for developers today, Microsoft unveiled plans for Silverlight 5, the next version of its technology for building interactive Web applications.Silverlight has always been an uncertain prospect–did the world really need another proprietary alternative to Adobe’s already popular Flash? But Microsoft has lately been embracing HTML5, which offers a standards-based way to accomplish many of the same things as Silverlight and Flash.
Speculation mounted that the Silverlight Web platform might be on the chopping block last month when Microsoft’s Server and Tools President Bob Muglia told Mary Jo Foley that the company’s Silverlight strategy had “shifted” and that “HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything, including (Apple’s) iOS platform.”
Today’s event was meant to reassure Silverlight Web developers that Microsoft has not abandoned them. Scott Guthrie, who oversees a number of development technologies for Microsoft, announced that Silverlight 5 would be a “major release” include improvements such as:
- Hardware decoding of video streams, which will enable high-definition video on low-powered netbooks
- A TrickPlay feature will let videos be played at different speeds, with audio pitch correction so sped-up videos won’t sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks
- Better power management to improve battery life during playback of Silverlight video
- A so-called “10-foot interface” so users can control videos with remote controls, as they do with Microsoft’s Media centre on Windows today.
The beta of Silverlight 5 is slated to come out in mid-2011, with final release by the end of the year.
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