A scant three months after the release of Silverlight 3, Microsoft is releasing the beta of Silverlight 4 for download today. It fixes a wide number of performance gaps, and greatly expands the abilities of the product.
The new features are grouped three main areas: media, business applications, and things that go beyond the browser. One by one:
In SL4, developers can now have access to the webcam and microphone of the user’s computer. There were two demoed applications, one involving a very Mac-esque photo booth application, and a bar code scanner. SL4 also now supports multicast streaming, output protection, and to the chagrin of some, offline DRM.
There are so many different new additions to the business side of Silverlight, that I will just place them all here. The tend to explain themselves. New in SL4: printing, rich text, clipboard access, right-click, mouse wheel, implicit styles, drag and drop, Bidi and RTL, Commanding and MVVM, share assemblies across SL and .NET4, data binding improvements, UDP Muliticast Support, REST enhancements, WCF improvements, WCF RiA services.
If none of that made any sense, you can take the word of the man sitting next to me during the keynote. He kept saying “vunnderfulll,” throughout the presentation.
Moving Beyond The Browser:
SL3 let developers install and build applications that were stand alone, outside the browser. SL4 takes that a step farther. There are new windowing API’s, notification pop-up support, HTML support, and drop target has been added.
Also, in SL4 you can build trusted applications, to get your Silverlight app out of the sandbox. Users must consent to trusted applications, of course.
Developers can now also change the window chrome around applications, and access the local file system. Other upgrades listed by MSFT are: cross-site network, keyboard in full screen mode, hardware device access, COM automation support.
According the Silverlight team, Silverlight is still around five megabytes, and installs in about ten seconds. SL4 is around twice as fast as SL3 in data intensive applications. Silverlight is currently installed on around 45% of internet using computers around the world, and Microsoft stated that the rate of adoption is accelerating.
Silverlight 4 is a major upgrade, answering nine of the top ten top requested features. The beta is available now. There will be a release candidate, and the full release of SL4 will be in the first half of 2010.
Not to overly quote overplayed Hip-Hop songs, but “get out the way b****, get out the way.” Silverlight is only going to get bigger, faster.