It’s been gratifying to see how much excitement there is out there about Silverlight. We’ve barely started the engines yet, but we’ve already had a number of big sites launch their first Silverlight experiences, and of course plenty of stuff underway that we’ll be revealing over the coming months.
Many .NET developers are naturally interested in the next release, which is when we’ll introduce support for C# and Visual Basic development based on the .NET Framework. Although we haven’t released any new major updates to the alpha developer preview of this functionality since MIX07, we’re opening the kimono a little today to provide a bit more transparency in our schedule.
Firstly, we’re announcing today that we’re renaming Silverlight 1.1 to Silverlight 2.0. As we’ve been building out the feature set for Silverlight v.Next, it’s been becoming increasingly clear that this is a big release. Adding together the Common Language Runtime, Base Class Libraries, Dynamic Language Runtime, the UI Frameworks, DRM, and a bunch of other features I’m not going into at this stage, it’s apparent that if this doesn’t count as a major version release, the bar will be set so impossibly high that we’ll never be able to name a Silverlight release as anything other than version 1.x! At the end of the day, this is just branding – it’s not really "news" in its own right, but of course you’ll see us start to refer to the v.Next release as Silverlight 2.0.
Secondly, I wanted to write a bit about where we are in the development process. Internally, we’re just completing our third development milestone. We have just one more milestone to go before MIX, which is when we’re going to have a new public release available. We’ll also have a non-commercial go live license ready by then. For today, Silverlight 1.0 is the appropriate choice if you want to build a site that needs to go into production within the next few months, but by the time we ship our next public preview release, we’ll be at a point when it will be appropriate for developers to start building .NET-based solutions.
So what’s coming in Silverlight 2.0? I think the thing that excites me the most about this release is the scale and breadth of UI innovation going into Silverlight. In WPF, we have a really powerful platform for building Windows desktop applications, and it will remain the "Ferrari" that contains the highest level of graphical functionality. Silverlight takes that same UI framework and transports it to the web, enabling RIA developers to create web-based applications using all the same skills as they need to build sophisticated Windows client applications. This unification of the framework across web and desktop is not easy to accomplish; many of the breaking changes that you’ll see between Silverlight 1.1 Alpha and the Silverlight 2.0 Beta have been introduced to bring about far greater consistency between Silverlight and WPF. The goal is to make it really easy to take a Silverlight application and bring it to the desktop: you shouldn’t have to completely rewrite the code to reach across the barrier to an offline solution.
In the Silverlight 1.1 Alpha, the UI framework side was pretty limited. Although we had the likes of MediaElement, Path, TextBlock, etc., it was a small fraction of what WPF provides in this regard. We now have a extensible control framework, two-way data binding, templates, styles, all the standard controls (TextBox, ScrollBar, CheckBox, RadioButton etc.), multiple layout containers (Grid, StackPanel, Canvas). In short, if you’re familiar with WPF today, you’ll be right at home with Silverlight 2.0.
Moving forward, if you want to build a rich Internet application, Silverlight should absolutely be at the top of your list for consideration. No other platform will offer such a rich UI framework, and all the data templates and styling capabilities, coupled with the power of the .NET Framework and base class libraries, along with an easy migration path to a full unrestricted Windows desktop solution.
So how can you find out more about Silverlight 2.0? Well, it so happens that MIX08 registration has just opened. We’re going to blast open the doors about Silverlight and a bunch of other new web products at this conference. Last year we sold out far earlier than most people were expecting. Don’t miss out this year – now is the time to get signed up!