Microsoft updates Silverlight and outlines Azure

Microsoft has launched a stream of web tool announcements at Mix 09.

Today's announcement focused around the launch of the Silverlight 3 Beta but the event, held this year in Las Vegas, also revealed new features to be introduced for Expression Blend and progress in the cloud with updates to the Azure Services Platform.

Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Platform at Microsoft, said: "In the short time since we launched Silverlight and Expression Blend, Microsoft has rapidly introduced new features and functionality that enable customers to deliver outstanding web sites."

He added: "We are working closely with the community to deliver software that helps businesses provide customer experiences on the web that go beyond good enough' and drive real business results."

The Silverlight 3 beta will "help rich Internet application (RIA) developers work faster with new graphics, animation and 3-D features, and more than 60 controls."

The new system incorporates high-quality and high-definition video with true high-definition video in full-screen mode and stutter-free live, and on-demand, video.

"If you are a business you want to offer the best. With our new high definition video and audio you can expect better quality with smooth streaming," added Mark Quirk, head of technology for development and platforms at Microsoft UK.

Silverlight 3 will also support more codecs. Quirk said: "We will now be offering support for VC1 and H.264. This will cover a much broader spectrum of major formats making the system more user friendly."

Finally it was confirmed that Silverlight 3 will enable developers to use the application outside of the browser and offline. Microsoft believes that this ease of access and having it available on desktop or your start menu will increase the user incentive to utilise it.

Microsoft also announced the Expression Blend 3 Preview, designed to "dramatically improve designer and developer workflow and productivity."

During the keynote address, Microsoft demonstrated SketchFlow, a new capability that allows designers to quickly prototype the flow and composition of applications. Designers can now electronically show their ideas, adding as much or little detail as they like but removing the static element of a normal presentation.

The key aspect is that designers can then receive annotated feedback on prototypes from stakeholders and this will increase the speed of the process from design to completion.

The final announcement referred to back-end platform improvements, including updates to the Azure Services Platform. The new capabilities in Windows Azure includes increasing the level of flexibility for developers through supporting other non-.NET codes - FastCGI, and geolocation.

This will provide developers with the capability to host data and code across two US-based data centres, enabling customers to store data in multiple locations while helping ensure business continuity.

Quirk said: "This will broaden the reach of Azure and further down the road we will be able to roll out further locations to store business' data in more countries than just the US."

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.