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Silverlight and You: The Future of the Flashplayer

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 3/31/2009

Been watching a lot of Hulu lately? In no time, that flash player might be replaced with Microsoft's new Silverlight interface. Wondering why? Read on to find out.

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    Accordions and All

    Microsoft’s Silverlight application is essential to running new content on the Internet - allowing for rich applications and for everything from streaming video to animation. What does that mean for Microsoft and its new OS? It means that Silverlight, which is essentially a type of Flash-like software will be more compatible with Windows than Adobe’s product itself. This raises an interesting antitrust issue – how will things fare for Flashplayers now that Microsoft is clearly tilting the playing field toward its end?

    Silverlight is an interesting product on its own, however, even disregarding the fact that Microsoft is clearly trying to push itself into the Flash market one way or another. As a web programming interface, Silverlight 3.0 is remarkably simple to use – some say, even easier to deal with than its fellow Flash counterpart. Also, as part of the effort to get companies like CNN and heavy hitters like Hulu to endorse this new product, Microsoft is making Silverlight compatible across platforms and across system types as well.

    The really advanced part of the latest build of Silverlight is the fact that it supports AAC encoding and h.264 file types. This means that Microsoft is positioning itself to be the first provider to allow streaming HD content to get to your computer. To give you an idea, this format of file is typical of the 720p broadcasts that you receive on your television, meaning that you’re talking about a huge leap in quality from that which is currently available on websites like Hulu.

    Furthermore, Silverlight is also positioned to be your 3D content provider. The engine currently supports 3D transformations of 2D elements, meaning that custom animations for the content itself as well as the interfaces would be possible. In essence, the engine would support not only these two fantastic upgrades to the currently outdated Flash system, but also synchronization with a web updating server and APIs that support local connections via a LAN. This would mean that two computers on the same network could utilize Silverlight to watch a video together or even play a flash-esque game together.

    Another interesting part of the new Silverlight software is the ability that the engine has to create interesting new UIs for users to interact with. Of these, the accordion interface is by and far the most interesting one of the bunch. Working like tiers out of an outline, the accordion allows you to view sub-headers and content in a tiered fashion, enabling you to move a video back into the background to allow for a chat with your buddy who happens to be watching the same thing.

    As with all these future web advances, Silverlight exists to fulfill one simple function – to give us the most amazing content available on the web in higher definition. But aside from that, the functions of locally connected computers sound interesting for those hoping to connect with people around them through their laptops. As we enter the age of streaming videos to laptops and fully-featured content, Silverlight is ready to lead the way.