Next version of Microsoft Silverlight in July

Silverlight logo

Microsoft has confirmed that Silverlight 3 will be launched on 10 July.

The software giant's Flash challenger will arrive with the third generations of the company's Expression Studio content and development suite.

The release date means that Silverlight 3 arrives only nine months after Silverlight 2, and four months after the beta was released at the Mix 09 conference.

Microsoft has previously claimed there will be no further betas for Silverlight 3, though a Release Candidate is expected within the next month.

The software giant is hailing Silverlight 3 as a significant step forward in its attempt to knock Adobe's dominant Flash platform off its throne.

Among the new features, the company has introduced support for hardware-based graphics acceleration, and new codec support for H.264, AAC audio and MPEG-4. There's also a raft of new APIs, allowing developers to plug in their own codecs.

This new hardware support brings with it the ability to convert multiple images into 3D models (as with Microsoft's Photosynth), upgrades for the impressive DeepZoom technology and new pixel shader effects.

Other nifty additions include the ability to run Silverlight 3 outside the browser using Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), which will allow developers to create Silverlight-based desktop apps.

This is aided and abetted by the ability to work offline and download content to cache. Support for multi-touch applications has also been added.

In contrast, work on Microsoft Expression Studio 3 has progressed much more slowly. The last major addition to the suite came in May last year, and Microsoft has not confirmed what new features we can expect from the latest version.