Microsoft's Silverlight technology and rival Adobe's Flash format are currently locked in a race over who delivers the world's online video, but the ultimate prize may be who powers the next generation of Web software.
Using Silverlight, the NBC site offers a glimpse of what is possible with future Web applications because viewers are able to watch up to four videos at once or follow the action with an online commentary that runs alongside the video.
By building up Silverlight's user base, the world's largest software maker is looking to win over developers who see Web platforms such as Silverlight and Flash as a new way to deliver powerful Web-linked programs incorporating rich graphics.
Microsoft, which said nearly half the visitors to NBC's site did not have Silverlight, plans to expand its reach to close the gap on Flash, which is already running on most of the world's Web-connected computers and powers over 80 percent of the video on the Internet.
Taking advantage of Flash, Silverlight and other more simple Web-coding technologies such as AJAX, a new breed of interactive Web software -- known as rich Internet applications (RIAs) -- has emerged.
Like other Web applications, RIAs are cheaper to deploy and maintain than traditional software, but they differ from more simple Web programs by employing rich graphics, running faster and creating a seamless experience that does not require the application to constantly reload or refresh.
Gartner analyst Ray Valdes said 90 percent of the top global 1,000 companies have yet to deploy any sort of RIA, while 90 percent of the top 100 consumer Web sites have already done so using the nonproprietary and more simple AJAX format.
That opportunity has Microsoft eyeing current leader Adobe for business that extends beyond Silverlight and into the sale of design tools along with server and database software to enable these new applications.
Microsoft is approaching Silverlight from the opposite direction. It plans to take advantage of its legions of outside developers experienced in writing for its ubiquitous Windows operating system.
The next version of Silverlight, being tested now and due later this year, will support Microsoft's .NET framework -- tools used by developers to create desktop applications that work on Windows.
25 August 2008
Standards rivalry in online multimedia platforms
If you were one of the many viewers who watched video clips of the Beijing Olympics online, you may recall that you were asked to download the "Silverlight" software to view it. While the financial side of the Microsoft/NBC transaction to use Silverlight instead of Adobe's Flash player is unknown (at least to me), the motivation for this is clear: to build up an installed base of Sliverlight software. This article from Reuters (via Yahoo News) does a good job of describing this. Quoting the article: