Silverlight 3 officially launches with smooth streaming, offline apps

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After going live just a little bit early, Silverlight 3 is now an official release. The third iteration of Microsoft's rich internet application platform largely viewed as the chief competitor to Adobe Flash (but really an AIR rival) was officially launched this morning at a Microsoft event in San Francisco alongside Expression 3, the latest version of the company's design and development studio.

In the short time that it has been around, Microsoft said today that nearly one-third of all Internet-enabled devices have Silverlight 2 installed, and today's launch ushered in several new big-name customers. NBC Sports, for example, which used Silverlight to stream the Beijing Summer Olympics, will not only use Silverlight for the 2010 Winter Olympics as was previously expected, but for all of its online video moving forward.

NBC Universal and the rest of the companies using Silverlight will be able to capitalize on the latest developments to the platform, which Microsoft premiered incrementally this year after Silverlight 3 was released in beta at MIX 09 in March.

Smooth Streaming, for example, is Silverlight 3's ability to provide variable streams up to 1080p based upon the seamless detection of the user's connection speed and CPU power. A user's conditions are determined so that a feed can be set up that will not buffer or stutter in mid-stream. This feature is enabled when Silverlight 3 is combined with IIS 7.0 Media Services.

Silverlight 3 offers an improved audiovisual experience overall, with better 3D rendering and animation, higher resolution video, and MPEG 4-based H.264/AAC audio.

The feature known as "Out-of-Browser" is the ability for Silverlight 3 apps to run outside of the browser window without any additional plug-ins, and without necessarily needing an Internet connection.

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