This week Microsoft is quietly delivering a flurry of updates to its developer community, including the release candidate version of Silverlight, the new rich media competitor to Adobe's Flash Player. Also available for download will be a Silverlight plug-in for Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2 -- another huge hunk of bits Microsoft is making available for download this week. None of this would be complete without Beta 2 of the 3.5 version of the .Net Framework itself, also ready for downloading.
"With included support for ASP.Net AJAX and the Silverlight Add-in for Visual Studio 2008, developers can also build a spectrum of rich interactive applications for the Web," said Prashant Sridharan, group product manager for Microsoft's Developer Division.
Rather than bundling Silverlight with Windows or Internet Explorer or pushing it to customers via Windows update, Microsoft is trying to convince high-traffic, rich media websites to adopt the technology and encourage users to download a browser plug-in. With Flash already on more than 700 million desktops, the company may have an uphill battle.
The 3.5 version of the.Net Framework will include new project and template tools to support major functionality introduced in the 3.0 version, including Windows Communications Foundation, a large set of protocols for building and orchestrating Web services, and Windows Workflow Foundation, which provides a means to create process-oriented applications. Workflows can string together functionality from Office 2007 to create so-called Office Business Applications using Visual Studio Tools for Office, now included in Visual Studio.
Sridharan notes that the Microsoft platform will deliver "further increases in capabilities through the delivery of Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008." At Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference earlier this month, the company announced that both of those products -- along with Visual Studio Server 2008 -- will ship in the US on February 27, 2008.