Silverlight 5 Beta announced
Thursday, 02 December 2010

During the keynote at Microsoft’s ‘Firestarter’ event in Redmond, Scott Guthrie  announced a beta of Silverlight5, which will be available in Q2 of 2011.


During the keynote at Microsoft’s ‘Firestarter’ event in Redmond, Scott Guthrie  announced a beta of Silverlight 5, which will be available in Q2 of 2011.

From a developer's point of view the most important features are probably the use of graphics hardware acceleration and the introduction of a new trusted application mode where you can finally create a web app that does the work of a desktop app without having to breakout of the sandbox. If you want to create complex applications then this is exactly the freedom you need - and it seems to be delivered in a relatively secure way.

Silverlight has supported some GPU acceleration but only in out-of-browser mode. Moonlight (the open source Linux implementation of Silverlight) recently boasted about having GPU support and now it looks as if Silverlight will follow suit by incorporating this and a faster immediate  graphics mode.

The proposed new features are a little vague but the complete list given is: 

Graphics improvements

  • Cross-platform Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) accelerated 3-D application programming interface (API) provides rich graphics on the Web for building advanced data visualizations and rich user experience (UI)

  • Immediate mode graphics API allows direct rendering to the GPU.
  • Hardware acceleration is enabled in windowless mode with Internet Explorer 9.

A new class of trusted applications

that brings desktop capabilities to the browser. These features, when enabled via a group policy registry key and an application certificate, mean users won’t need to leave the browser to perform complex tasks:

  • Host HTML content as a Web browser control within the Silverlight application. HTML pages, such as help content or e-mail, can be integrated within the application.
  • Read and write files to the user’s My Documents folder, making it easier to find media files or create local copies of reports.
  • Launch Microsoft Office and other desktop programs. Users can open Microsoft Outlook and create an e-mail message, or send a report to Word utilizing the power of Office.
  •  Access devices and other system capabilities by calling into application COM components. Users can access a USB security card reader or a bar-code scanner.
  • Enjoy full keyboard support in full screen, which enables richer kiosk and media viewing applications.
  • Call existing unmanaged code directly from within Silverlight with PInvoke.

Out-of-browser trusted applications are further enhanced

  • Existing unmanaged code can be called directly from within Silverlight with PInvoke.
  • Child Window support allows multiple windows to be launched from the application.

Fluid user interface

enables smoother animation within the UI. Inter-Layout Transitions allow developers to specify animations to apply when elements are added, removed or re-ordered within a layout. This provides smoother user experiences when, for example, items are inserted into a list.


Text improvements

  • Multicolumn text and linked text container allow text to flow around other elements.
  • Tracking/leading set precisely how far apart each character is for full creative control.
  • Text clarity is improved with Pixel Snapping.
  • Text layout performance is significantly improved.
  • OpenType support has been enhanced. 

Postscript support    

Support for Postscript vector printing enables users to create reports and documents, including the ability to create a virtual print view different from what is shown on the screen.

MVVM databing

Model View ViewModel (MVVM) and Databinding enhancements allow more work to be done more easily via XAML:
  • Debugging support now allows breakpoints to be set on a binding, so you can step through binding failures.
  • Implicit DataTemplates allow templates to be created across an application to support a particular type by default.
  • Ancestor RelativeSource allows, for example, a DataTemplate to bind to a property on the control that contains it.
  • Binding in style setters allows bindings to be used within styles to reference other properties.
  • The DataContextChanged event is being introduced. Markup extensions allow code to be run at XAML parse time for both properties and event handlers, enabling cutting-edge MVVM support.

Networking and Windows Communication Foundation enhancements

  • Reduced network latency by using a background thread for networking.
  • WS-Trust support: message security — encrypted at the Windows Communication Foundation level; Security Assertion Markup Language authentication token.

Silverlight 5 performance improvements

  • Reduced network latency by using a background thread for networking.
  • XAML parser improvements that speed up startup and runtime performance.
  • Support for 64-bit operating systems.

 Tools improvements

  • Microsoft Visual Studio profiling support including CPU, memory, thread contention.
  • Visual Studio Team Test support.

 Premium Media Experiences

Silverlight 5 offers improved media support and rich UI capabilities:

  • Hardware Decode and presentation of H.264 improve performance for lower-power devices to render high-definition video using GPU support.
  • TrickPlay allows video to be played at different speeds and supports fast-forward and rewind. At up to twice the speed, audio pitch correction allows users to watch videos while preserving a normal audio pitch.
  • Improved power awareness prevents the screen saver from being shown while watching video and allows the computer to sleep when video is not active.
  • Remote-control support allows users to control media playback.
  • Digital rights management advancements allow seamless switching between DRM media sources.

If Microsoft can deliver a reasonable part of this list, and if the graphics and security modes are delivered, then this is enough to make Silverlight an easy way to create the sort of web apps we need and way more powerful than HTML5.

Further reading:

Silverlight is alive and well

Silverlight is dead, long live Silverlight?

Windows and .NET - the coming storm

WPF & Silverlight at risk from Microsoft's passion for HTML5

Silverlight better than HTML5?


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 02 December 2010 )