The "big" keynote at Mix 2007 is almost over and in its wake we have received a few additional details about Silverlight. Most notably, we now know that the first official release of Silverlight 1.0 will be coming sometime this summer and that a version 1.1 will follow (perhaps later this year?) with full support for managed language programming (such as C# or VB) against Silverlight. The summer release will primarily target Silverlight media scenarios, but the follow-up version will really start to open-up the possibilities of using Silverlight for serious web development.
Before today's demos, I'll admit I had been a bit of a Silverlight "fence sitter". That is to say, I had viewed Silverlight as a "neat" technology but seen relatively little proof that it could really improve web experiences. After today's demos, I can say whole heartedly that I'm convinced Silverlight does have the capability to radically effect the web.
It's not that Silverlight can do anything that's not possible with existing technologies, but the Expression Studio/Visual Studio/XAML workflow really make it a lot easier. When you see demos like Silverlight Air Lines or Top Banna, you gain an appreciation for how much time will be saved (and how much cooler web sites will look) when visual assets built with XAML can be directly used in a web application and coded against with .Net.
One point that was glazed over during the keynote that remains key to Silverlight's success is the penetration of the Silverlight plug-in on "average user" computers. Traditionally, developers avoid excessive use of Flash to ensure a site is broadly accessible, even to that 2% of the world's PCs that don't have Flash installed. Silverlight 1.0 is currently installed on 0% of the world's computers, which should give anyone thinking about broad Silverlight deployment in the near future reason for pause. A cool website isn't very cool if 80% of the world's computers can't access it.
That said, I am very impressed with the latest Silverlight demos and road map. In six to twelve months time (after "Orcas" and Silverlight 1.1 ship), I think Silverlight will become an essential part of many new ASP.NET projects. That means now is the time to start learning the framework so that you can deliver RIA solutions after Silverlight has gained some traction.
Finally, lots of new software downloads were made available today to coincide with the keynote, including:
- Visual Stuido "Orcas" Beta 1
- Visual Studio "Orcas" Beta 1 Tools for Silverlight
- Expression Blend 2 May Preview
- Silverlight 1.o Beta SDK (with Go Live license)
- Silverlight 1.1 Alpha SDK (provides .Net code support; not Go Live)
- ASP.NET Futures May 2007 (provides ASP.NET server controls for Silverlight)
- New Silverlight run-times (for Mac and Windows, Beta 1.0 and Alpha 1.1)
P.S. Some of the videos on the just opened Silverlight web site don't seem to be working. Hopefully they'll address the problem soon. In the mean time, don't miss the featured Telerik RadControls for Silverlight overview.