Silverlight 4 was officially launched today during Scott Guthrie’s keynote at the DevConnections conference. Scott Guthrie outlined the major scenarios that Silverlight 4 targets as Media Capabilities, Business Apps and Beyond the Browser Apps. He also outlined all fancy features in different sections, such as Media, Application Development, Data & Networking and Out of Browser Features. Each section was followed by Microsoft application demo or demo by a company leveraging Silverlight technologies. The following lists underline all the demonstrated Silverlight 4 features:
Media Features of Silverlight 4
- WebCam and Microphone Support
- Multicast Streaming
- Output Protection
- Offline DRM (for premium content)
A key announcement regarding media features was that Silverlight 4 will now be available on TV’s, Blu-ray devices, set-top boxes etc. and use embedded hardware in your home devices, which will enable a broader use of Silverlight. This feature was demonstrated by Larry Olson, Silverlight Product Manager. He emphasized, that for this scenario Silverlight could be used for applications, games etc. and not just media.
Application Development Features of Silverlight 4
- Rich Text Support
- ClipBoard Support
- Implicit Styles
- Drag/Drop Functionality
- BiDi RTL
- HTML Hosting Support
- Commanding and MVVM Support
- Additional Controls
Data & Networking Features of Silverlight 4
- Share Assemblies across Silverlight and .NET4
- Data Binding Improvements
- UDP Multicast Support
Out of Browser Features of Silverlight 4
- Trusted Window Chrome
- Local File System
- Cross Site Network
- Keyboard Access, Full Screen Support
- Hardware Device Support
- COM Automation Support in Windows
Various application demos highlighted how Silverlight 4 could be used for for different scenarios.
Frank Jeannin, Founder & CEO at Ormetis, presented a Silverlight 4 Data Application showing specific data integration/transformation and OOB capabilities. He also pointed out why Ormetis did not consider Adobe Flash for this solution and added this funny quote: “I’m not going to criticize Flash, Steve Jobs is doing that full-time already.”
As for the productivity improvement of developers, Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend 4 provides a great experience for interactive development plus design. John Papa, Sr Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, was on stage to demonstrate a data scenario with the new Silverlight 4 tools.
Dave Wolf, VP at Cynergy, demoed a project with webcam, barcode scan and path listbox functionalities which they developed for EBay targeting the occasional buyer/seller.
Christopher Cifra from National Instruments demoed the last application; the app provided Web based front ends and remote monitoring for different devices they produced.
Besides the show off of functionalities and features, Scott Guthrie outlined the fundamentals they focused on in terms of Silverlight 4 performance and quality.
Silverlight 4 Perfomance Facts
- Twice as fast
- %30 faster startup
- New Profiling Support
- Still 10 seconds to install
The final release of Silverlight 4 will be available this Thursday, April 15th, 2010. Check for the keynote recording here. You may also find more about the new capabilities on the Silverlight 4 page.
If you were already reading about Silverlight 4 features since the Beta release at PDC 2009, you may not have come across any significant revelations during the keynote. Yet the Channel 9 live QA sessions with Scott Guthrie, Tim Heuer and John Papa were pretty informative.
The following is a quick and mixed set of their answers:
The XAML parser has been completely rewritten for Silverlight 4.
If you are searching for Silverlight related performance resources; here are two pointers by Tim Heuer:
- Watch Seema Ramchandani MIX10 “Silverlight Performance on the Windows Phone” video to find out how the layout engine works.
- Check out Ashraf Michail’s Essential Silverlight 3 book to learn how Silverlight works behind the scenes and what you can do to enhance performance
There is no vendor or timeline announcement yet regarding Silverlight 4 on devices. In addition, the Silverlight4 apps on these devices do not have to be XNA apps, they can be XAML based apps.
Expression Blend 4 provides support for MVVM and there are built in MVVM templates available for the Silverlight designer in Visual Studio 2010. In a couple weeks, there will also be recording about that on SilverlightTV.
WCF RIA provides you with out of the box client/server security, validation etc. But you do not have to WCF RIA services for all your apps; you can use REST-based services or only HTTP. Now there is also UDP support for multi-cast in Silverlight 4.
As for the question, when to use WPF and when to use Silverlight, the answer was pretty straightforward. For a giant desktop app, which requires the full richness of Windows integration, you may want to stick to WPF. Visual Studio and Expression tools make extensive use of WPF.
Silverlight started off as a subset of WPF, however as it gets richer capabilities, the same features are built into WPF as well to have a common programming model for Silverlight and WPF.
Silverlight 4 got faster than the previous versions of Silverlight as it precompiles all assemblies that ship in the box.
The release timeline for Silverlight 4 on Windows Phone 7 series is not specified yet.
Silverlight release cycles iterate very fast due to the extensive planning process, which take place months before the release. Specific scenarios and features required to nail these scenarios are specified. After each release, the team working on the actual release moves on to the planning phase, whereas the team planning the release starts to actually work on the release.
The Channel9 interviews and discussions will run until 4 PM PCT at the Silverlight site. Today seems to be an entire day of Silverlight data overload!