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Death by Silverlight

Yes, this title is influenced by death by chocolate, where in you get an overdose of chocolate. At this time I feel exactly the same for Silverlight (SL). With just over 2 years since the first version made its mark felt, Silverlight has come a long long way. Ironically, as part of TechDays event hosted specifically at our campus, we talked a lot about SL3 and right then, across the ocean, at PDC 2009, Microsoft just unveiled SL4 beta bits.

When we started looking at SL 1.0 back in late 2007, it had limited feature set with XAML support, and most work had to be done in java script. It looked more of media (video) playback at that time. MS called it their RIA platform, but it didn't offer much at that time. With SL2 at PDC 2008 and SL3 just earlier this year in July 2009, a host of features have found their way in the platform. Along with multitude of controls, to .net language support, to IIS Smooth streaming, to perspective 3D, to out of browser experience, SL is a technology you just cannot ignore.

It was very interesting to note that since keeping the size of the plugin small was critical part of SL implementation, MS actually ended up reducing the size of the SL 3 plugin over its predecessor, SL2. I haven't yet checked on the size for SL4 and given that it is still in beta it also won't make sense to do it right now. Anyway, so MS announced the public beta of SL 4 at PDC 2009 and the new developer tool set is available here. Interestingly, SL4 beta will work only with VS 2010 Beta 2 for now.

You can check this paper to get overview on what are the new features in SL4 and as well this session by Karen Corby at PDC 09. Here i will also give a quick snapshot of features I found interesting. These aren't necessarily on the only new features and may also not fall high in your own priority listing.

Few SL4 Features

  1. Print support is finally here. This is one requirement that we were asked a lot about
  2. Media support now also includes ability to capture devices like webcams and stream video as recorded by it
  3. More support for writing business apps with things like clip board access, rich text box support, bi-directional support to handle languages like Arabic, NGEN for platform assemblies to provide faster load times
  4. Styles can now be implicitly applied to all same type controls, just like WPF and you don't need to always use a Key
  5. Drag and drop from desktop onto SL application is supported
  6. Right click menu can now be customized

As I said, there are many more features to keep a watch on, but these are just high level ones that caught my attention. There are many more videos worth watching from PDC, in case you didn't get to attend the event in person.

Finally, When will RTM for SL4 be available? In his keynote address on Day 2 of PDC 2009, Scott Guthrie had said that final release will ship in the first half of next year. My personal take on this will be along with VS 2010 in March 2010 at MIX 2010 [Disclaimer: This purely a personal opinion and not an official statement].


> "Along with multitude of controls, to .net language support, to IIS Smooth streaming, to perspective 3D, to out of browser experience, SL is a technology you just ignore."

You probably meant to say -
"...SL is a technology you just CANNOT ignore"

RK, thanks very much. That is indeed what I wanted to say. Funny, what small words like this can do to the message. I have fixed this.

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