I’m back in my room for a bit after the MIX07 kickoff keynote with Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, and Scott Guthrie, the guy in charge of Silverlight. The keynote was basically all about Silverlight and what it can do. It’s Microsoft’s new browser plug in that lets you do web apps, video streaming. It’s been called their attempt at a “Flash killer”. Will it succeed? Who knows, but I saw some really cool stuff in the demos that make me excited.
First off, they announced two more major features of Silverlight that hadn’t yet been revealed. The first is that Silverlight contains a .NET CLR – common language runtime. That means that you can write in any programming language that .NET supports, and use that code in Silverlight. Big move here, I think. Kind of a trojan horse. Why? Because Silverlight works in pretty much any browser on any platform. Firefox and Safari on the Mac were highlighted prominently during the demos – the message they kept hammering is that Silverlight works the same everywhere. They also showed off some REALLY cool cross-platform debugging – running a Silverlight app in Firefox on the Mac, then connecting to that process on the Mac from Visual Studio on a Windows machine over the network, setting a breakpoint, modifying the code during runtime, etc. It was mind blowing, and potentially very useful.
The second major announcement about Silverlight is Silverlight Streaming. Basically, you can upload up to 4GB of video content (in 10 minute chunks, like YouTube) for free to Microsoft’s Content Delivery Network (streaming servers and datacenters all over the world). Then stream that video to your Silverlight applications. A shot across the bow of YouTube, blip.tv, and other free video hosting services, though this one is definitely developer focused when you compare features with those other services. Still, a nice move on Microsoft’s part.
Also announced was the fact that Silverlight 1.0 beta is live and available for download, and that Expression Studio (the collection of design tools for all this fancy Silverlight content, which also got lots of demo time) is shipping as of today. MIX attendees get a copy with special commemorative box art, but we can’t pick it up until later, so I don’t actually have my hands on it yet.
There were several demos that were really, really impressive. First, Netflix showed off their instant streaming movie viewer. It was really, really fast, and has some cool features like “shared watching”, where you can invite another person to watch the movie with you, chat with them, etc. And of course, they showed it running on Mac and Windows.
The president of CBS (I think that’s who he was) gave us all a chance to nap as he woodenly read his speech off of a teleprompter, and told us all about “user generated content”, context sensitive ads, blah blah zzzz snore. It was pretty painful. But hey, at least they’re trying to get it, right?
There was a demo of a web-based video editing lighttable application called “Top Banana” from Metaliq. It was a very cool drag and drop video editor, letting you splice together clips, turn clips into timelines, etc. The most impressive part was the fact that the entire application weighs less than 50KB (!), and was developed in three weeks for this demo at MIX. It will be released as a sample for people to play with and improve upon. Get ready for lots of cool web-based video editing apps.
The head of MLB.com (Major League Baseball) showed off what they have done with their Sliverlight-based game player – all the features you’d expect – live streaming of multiple games, stats overlay, chat with a buddy, etc. At the end, he showed a demo of an “unreleased” Windows Mobile phone device (it was an HTC Vox, if I’m not mistaken) running a mobile version of the Silverlight app, including all the stats and streaming video.
I’m not excited at all about being able to play with the MLB player, but I AM excited that there seems to be a Windows Mobile version of Silverlight. I can’t wait to get see what rich(er) mobile web applications come about because of that. Now, if only it was pre-installed on all phones, for a bigger user base.
At the end of the keynote, Mike Arrington came out with Ray Ozzie and Scott Guthrie for a Q&A session. He asked questions about whether or not Microsoft saw Silverlight as a Flash killer (“Choice is good” was the answer), if they thought they could reach the designer audience, which Adobe dominates, and even slipped in a question about the Zune phone (nice try, Mike). I had to go before the Q&A session was over, but I’m sure it will be covered in detail at other places, like TechCrunch.
Next up this afternoon – breakout sessions on microformats, Dave Winer’s panel on building the perfect podcast player, and who knows what else – we’ll see what comes up!
I’ve been “live Twittering” a lot of updates as they happen, so make sure you check them out at twitter.com/jabancroft. I don’t have incoming Twitter messages going to my phone – way too many of them, it kills my battery. So if you want to ask a question, or respond to one of my tweets, just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
One last thing – if you’re at MIX and want to share your Really Awesome Software story with me on video, drop me a line (email or call my cell – 503-334-1889), and we’ll meet up somewhere. Looking forward to more cool demos and geeking out!