Silverlight 4 to do for PCs what HD DVD couldn't

A Microsoft spokesperson has confirmed to Betanews that the company is planning to demonstrate technology currently being planned for version 4 of Silverlight, its media distribution platform based on .NET, designed to provide both an interactivity layer and digital rights management services for movie studios and other content providers. These services, the company now says, are intended to "enable movie studios and retailers to provide the same rich interactive experiences via digital copy and Internet distribution as consumers get with DVD or Blu-ray."

As many DVD and Blu-ray Disc collectors already know, "digital copy" in this instance refers to a separate file distributed with a disc that usually plays in ordinary DVD or BD players, but which plays interactively on PCs. If Microsoft's plan as it currently describes it becomes successful, movie discs produced in the near future could bear the Silverlight logo.

Microsoft "buried the lede," in this case, in an announcement late yesterday that ostensibly referred to the company's pending demonstration next week at a broadcasting conference in Amsterdam, of the next generation of streaming media for its Internet Information Services Web server platform, which is being upgraded to version 7.5 for Windows Server 2008 R2. But that streaming platform is for Web sites that publish video; arguably, you don't need IIS to watch a disc. Or at least you shouldn't, perhaps except for the fact that Microsoft is intending Silverlight 4 to pave the way for its latest DRM platform. PlayReady DRM was announced in 2007, and Microsoft's first partnerships were revealed a full year and a half ago.

But that was when the platform was being discussed as the "mobile version" of Microsoft's desktop-level DRM, which either was being called PlaysForSure or waiting on a new name, depending upon whom at Microsoft one asked. Now it appears that name will be PlayReady; and this week's news appears to indicate its lead-off product will not be on mobile platforms after all.

Though distribution of Silverlight 3 has been ongoing for the last two months, and what was described as an "official launch" took place last July 10, Microsoft held what its marketing team described as an "official Silverlight 3 launch event" yesterday at the Amsterdam conference. There, S3 shared the stage with Expression 3, the company's Web development system geared toward designers, which utilizes the S3 platform. But the "official" official launch event appears to have been the debut, at least in the public conscience, of Silverlight 4, with what promises to be a next-generation smooth streaming system building on the 1080p, H.264-based model that debuted in S3.

Conceivably, movie discs bearing the Silverlight logo may very well also make use of the IIS 7.5 Web platform, essentially as an authentication system for S4's PlayReady DRM.

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