Microsoft Releases Silverlight 5

Microsoft made the final version of Silverlight 5 available via download on Friday.

The release is the latest -- and perhaps last -- major update to the company's .NET technology for building rich interactive applications that can run outside a browser or inside a browser via plug-ins. Besides outlining the product's lifecycle and the new release's technical support advancements, Microsoft did not reveal anything about Silverlight's future prospects in its brief announcement.

Silverlight 5 supports the PivotViewer and RichTextblock controls, improves text clarity (via OpenType and text wrap) and offers a Postscript Vector printing API. It also adds support for WS-Trust for browsers, 3-D graphics, 64-bit apps and hardware decoding of H.264 video. An overview of these Silverlight 5 features and more is available here.

The upcoming Internet Explorer 10 browser for the Windows 8 desktop will be compatible with Silverlight, according to Microsoft, but only for the classic "Desktop" user interface. The IE 10 browser designed for the "Metro-style" user interface of Windows 8 will not have browser plug-in support, and that implies that there will be no support for Silverlight or Adobe Flash add-ons. Windows Phone 7.5 (formerly code-named "Mango") is based on Silverlight 4 and remains a distinct platform. Silverlight 5 is supported in IE on Vista and Windows 7, Firefox, Chrome and Safari, according to Microsoft.

Silverlight 5 was announced about a year ago during a Microsoft Firestarter event keynote given by Scott Guthrie, who then served as corporate vice president of the .NET platform. Even at that time, Silverlight's future was being questioned. It was unclear whether another upgrade would arrive, especially given Microsoft's growing emphasis on HTML 5/JavaScript in Windows 8 for graphics.

Despite the growing concerns of a loyal developer community, when the Silverlight 5 beta was released at MIX 11 in April, the conference focused on Internet Explorer 10 and its support of HTML5/JavaScript, and developments related to Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft's assertions that Silverlight is a strategic technology for client apps inside and outside the browser, apps on devices (Windows Phone and Windows Embedded) and media solutions, have not convinced a lot of developers that the platform has a viable future, even on Windows. Lately, much of the discussion has moved to XAML and how easily developers can transition their Silverlight skillsets to building Windows 8 Metro-style apps for the Windows Runtime (WinRT) using XAML.

Windows 8 and WinRT were unveiled at Microsoft's Build developer conference in mid-September. The Silverlight 5 release candidate, which appeared at the beginning of September, was largely overshadowed by those Build announcements.

Alongside the release of Silverlight 5, Microsoft outlined its Support Lifecycle policy for the product. The company will provide support through Oct. 12, 2021 for Silverlight 5 using the browsers listed here, or for the lifecycle of those browsers, whichever period is shorter. The company has also pledged to provide 12 months' notice before discontinuing support for Silverlight 5.

The Silverlight 5 SDK, Silverlight 5 Tools for Visual Studio 2010 SP1 and related tooling are available here.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.


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