LAS VEGAS--After a design-focused beginning, the talk quickly turned techie here at the Mix 09 event once Microsoft corporate VP Scott Guthrie took the stage.
After announcing a few different Web tools (which I'll save for lower down), the discussion shifted to Silverlight and Silverlight 3. Guthrie noted that so far there have been 350 million installations of Silverlight and said Microsoft believes there are now 300,000 developers targeting Silverlight.
Among the new features of Silverlight 3 is the ability to tap a computer's graphics processor to offer hardware acceleration of the video (both PC and Mac). The company is expected to make the beta version of Silverlight 3 available later on Wednesday, with some pieces of the product already having made their way onto the Web. (Update: Microsoft has officially announced the beta of Silverlight 3.)
NBC's Perkins Miller also took the stage to announce that his network will be using Microsoft's Silverlight to offer 720p HD streaming of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The technology will also allow pausing and rewinding of live TV, Miller said.
Before turning to the new version of Silverlight, Guthrie brought out Kevin McEntee vice president of Web Engineering for Netflix. McEntee noted that Netflix started considering Silverlight about a year ago as a way to add support for the Mac and for more browsers.
"Twenty percent of users that wanted to stream Netflix movies couldn't because we weren't on the Macintosh and we weren't on Firefox," McEntee said. In the end, Netflix went all Silverlight for its streaming player because it allowed them to use a single player that can work across multiple browsers and computers.
Another benefit, McEntee said, is the fact that the company doesn't need to do a new installer each time it updates its player. In the past, updates required users to re-install the Netflix application, something that 20 percent of users either could not or would not do. That kept the company from innovating, limiting updates to once a year.
"Every two weeks we are trying something new," McEntee said.
As for the other products, Microsoft announced a new version of its Expression Web tool that includes a "SuperPreview" feature that allows Web designers to see what their page looks like on a variety of browsers--even browsers that are on other platforms, by tapping into a cloud service. Microsoft also made a free standalone version of SuperPreview available to allow users to compare how Web pages render in the three latest versions of Internet Explorer--IE 6, IE 7, and IE 8.
Guthrie also announced a few new details on Windows Azure, reiterating that the final version of the Azure platform is due to launch before the end of 2009. Among the features being added is the inclusion of Fast CGI support, which means Azure will be capable of running PHP applications in addition to those written for Microsoft's .Net.
Update: Guthrie offered a few more details on Silverlight 3. The new version can be used to write programs that run outside the browser on both PCs and Macs. As for timing, Guthrie said the company plans for only a single beta. "We'll ship the final release later this year."
On the Mac front, Microsoft also said that developers will now be able to use Eclipse on Macs to develop Silverlight applications.