Itâ€™s not that often when a technology comes along that leaves me amazed. You know, the sort of thing when you look at it you think â€œwow, this is good. Not just good, but perhaps is going to make a difference to websites in a very real way in the near futureâ€. I got this impression when I sat in on a Silverlight demonstration today. Whilst Microsoft sometimes does things in an odd way, this is clearly a technology that theyâ€™ve taken time and effort to think out. Hereâ€™s what they have to say:
Microsoft Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform, and cross-device plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web. By using Expression Studio and Visual Studio, designers and developers can collaborate more effectively using the skills they have today to light up the Web of tomorrow.
Still not sure what theyâ€™re going on about? I wasnâ€™t either, so I wanted more. I went to Wikipedia and dug this up:
So, itâ€™s powerful right? Well, letâ€™s take a look at some of the showcase applications/sites that are using this proprietary Microsoft technology to excellent advantage. Bear in mind that a lot of this is still in beta build and only on version 2, so things can only get very much better from here on in.
This site features memorabilia images from the Hard Rock cafe, in the form of various items such as clothing, guitars and accessories belonging to musicians current and past. What Silverlight allows is the amazing â€˜deep zoomâ€™ facility. Go take a look at the Beatles section. You see how you can zoom right in and the image quality is lossless? Thatâ€™s damn amazing.
How about this site? You get access to a video thatâ€™s playing on a jigsaw puzzle â€“ with the video continuing to play in each of the pieces! Staggering! Not only is the video continuing to play but each piece is non-uniform in shape and size. Something that would be extremely difficult to pull off using any other alternative technology on the market today.
If youâ€™re a doctor then this demonstration is for you. It shows exactly how powerful Silverlight is, with each screen being programmed and giving access to a range of information.
â€œThe Microsoft Health Common User Interface (MSCUI) Patient Journey Demonstrator is a vehicle for Microsoft thought leadership in state-of-the-art User Experience for Healthcare applications. It provides exemplar implementations of Microsoft Common User Interface guidance on a Microsoft platform. It is our showcase for new ideas, experimentation and an artefact for learning and thinking about future developments of the MSCUI program.â€
The final demonstration site shows a full program being run â€“ bear in mind that this is through browser only so it is extremely impressive indeed. It shows potential for the sort of thing that could be produced in the future across a range of business areas.
Iâ€™m sure some of you will have noted the name. Thereâ€™s no doubt that Silverlight isnâ€™t a coincidence, in light of Macromediaâ€™s â€˜Flashâ€™. However, does it offer something genuinely different as an alternative runtime environment for useful and interesting applications? Absolutely. I can see great things are going to come from it, and websites will become far more featured and media-rich as a result.