Silverlight 2 final set for this summer, won't play Flash video

Microsoft developer Ashish Thapliyal has published a roadmap for the Silverlight 2 Web platform, confirming a final launch scheduled for the summer, and noting that Silverlight won't be able to play back .flv Flash video files.

Silverlight 2.0 Beta 1 made its debut at MIX 08 last month with a limited non-commercial license. Beta 2 is slated for release this quarter and will allow developers to launch commercial applications built atop the platform. Microsoft typically lets developers to do this with its near-finished betas using what it calls a "Go-Live" license.

Beta 2 will contain what Microsoft calls "breaking changes," in which code developed for Beta 1 may not work properly with the update. However, the company notes that Beta 2 to final RTM will not contain drastic changes and few features will be added.

Applications developed for Silverlight 1.0 will work for customers using the Silverlight 2.0 runtime, and although 1.0 is shipping separately now, once 2.0 is completed Microsoft will migrate to the new release. "There is only one Silverlight so all the capabilities of 1.0 will be unified in the 2.0 release," wrote Thapliyal.

The final release of Silverlight 2.0 should arrive later this summer, but Microsoft hasn't specified an exact timeframe. However, Beta 2 will serve as a broad testbed for the final bits, as online content and video for the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be broadcast using Silverlight 2. This will get the beta tested on potentially hundreds of millions of computers, and Microsoft can correct any problems in time for RTM.

While Microsoft isn't yet prepared to disclose the final set of controls that will be available to developers in Silverlight 2, the company is clear on one point: it won't play Adobe's Flash files. It's a logical question, since most video online is in the Flash format, but Microsoft cites licensing issues and the size of the Silverlight download as reasons not to support it.

"[Silverlight] doesn't support arbitrary codecs since those get complicated from a licensing perspective (Microsoft needs to pay the owners of those formats royalties), and they also dramatically increase the size of the download (which we want to keep small to enable really easy deployment)," explained Thapliyal. "Currently the alternative to this is Expression Media Encoder. It will have support for taking different formats like flv and converting them into Silverlight supported formats."

What's next for Silverlight? Microsoft is still developing a mobile version of the software, but has set no timetable for its release. Thapliyal says the company is also working on a plan for Silverlight 3 (referred to as v.Next), but has nothing to announce at the current time.

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