First look: Microsoft Silverlight 3 challenges Adobe AIR

Redmond's much-enhanced rich Internet application platform also runs on Windows or Mac desktops, online or offline

Bottom Line

Microsoft Silverlight 3 is catching up to the capabilities of Adobe Flash, Flex, and AIR in all the areas where Silverlight was behind. Silverlight 3 applications can run in or out of the browser, online or offline, with much improved audio, video, and 3-D graphics.

Recently I've been hearing from Adobe on a regular basis about adoptions of the Adobe Flash Platform by large media organizations, such as Clear Channel Radio and MLB.com, for streaming media content to the Web both live and on demand. I've been hearing rather less from Microsoft about Silverlight adoptions.

I think that part of the reason is that Adobe leapfrogged Microsoft last winter in the area of media support, particularly H.264/Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) audio and full HD video playback. These and many other capabilities are included in Silverlight 3, which is currently in a beta that does not include a "go live" license, but will most likely be released in July.

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[ See related Test Center reviews: Silverlight 2 | Adobe AIR | Adobe Flex Builder | Curl | Visual Studio 2010 preview. ]

Another area where Flash and Flex were ahead of Silverlight is Windows and Macintosh desktop operation. A number of desktop Flex/AIR applications have become popular, especially Twitter clients; examples include TweetDeck, Twhirl, DestroyTwitter, and Seesmic Desktop. (Let's ignore the memory leak issues they all have in common for the moment.)

Out of the browser

Silverlight 2 didn't have a viable way to run on a desktop; the best a developer could do along those lines was to build a desktop WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) application based loosely on a corresponding Silverlight RIA (rich Internet application). Silverlight 3 addresses those issues very nicely, with easy ways to install Silverlight applications on a desktop, update them in place, detect Internet connectivity state changes, and store information locally and securely.

expression-blend_sm.gif
The Expression Blend 3 Preview can import Adobe files and has its own code editor -- big improvements from previous versions.
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The sample from the previous image (part of a memory card game) running in a browser.
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