Silverlight 2.0 to launch early next year

Next version of Microsoft's browser plug-in will have more relevance for enterprise applications.

Instead of labeling the next version of its Silverlight cross-platform browser plug-in 1.1, Microsoft will call it 2.0, and will release a beta version early next year, according to a corporate blog post Thursday.

Microsoft had already released an alpha version of Silverlight 1.1. "After stepping back and looking at all the new features in it ... we've realized that calling it a point release doesn't really reflect the true nature of it," wrote Scott Guthrie, general manager in the company's developer division. "Consequently we have decided to change the name and refer to it as 'Silverlight V2.0' going forward."

Guthrie also said the upcoming beta release will have a go-live license, meaning programmers can immediately create and deploy applications based on Silverlight 2.0.

Since launching Silverlight 1.0 at its MIX conference in March, Microsoft has focused much of its public relations effort on the plug-in's value for consumer-facing Web sites and streaming content.

But for enterprises, Silverlight 2.0 holds far more relevance, because it includes a subset of the .NET Framework, Microsoft's underlying programming model. This means Microsoft's vast community of developers can program rich Internet applications for multiple browsers using familiar tools like Visual Studio.

Guthrie discussed some of the new features planned for the 2.0 release, which include access to additional features of Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation user interface framework; a number of new controls; and support for REST, POX, RSS and WS* protocols.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company would be restricting comment Thursday on the Silverlight news to Guthrie's blog post.

Microsoft is competing with a wide range of RIA tool vendors, but perhaps no more heatedly than with Adobe, which enjoys near-ubiquitous penetration for its Flash platform.

But all companies have the benefit of tilling an increasingly fertile field, as enterprises begin applying RIA technologies in support of core business processes.

A new report by Forrester Research analysts Erica Driver and Ron Rogowski discusses the emergence of "information workplaces" -- essentially the next generation of enterprise portals and dashboards.

"A movement is underway in midsize and large enterprises to create Information Workplaces (IW) that are contextual, seamless, individualized, multi-modal, social and quick," the analysts wrote. Sixty percent of companies Forrester surveyed in February "said that they are in the process of developing, or have already documented, an Information Workplace strategy," according to the report.

Forrester surveyed 13 RIA vendors, including big players such as Microsoft, IBM Oracle and Adobe, as well as specialized vendors like Curl. Most of the companies said between 40 percent and 60 percent of their customers are "building employee-facing apps or turbocharging their enterprise portals with RIA technology."

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