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Microsoft on Friday said it would soon release the first public beta of Silverlight 2, calling it a major upgrade focusing on the development of rich Internet applications.
In the first of several blog posts to come on Silverlight 2, Scott Guthrie, a general manager in Microsoft's developer division, said the upcoming upgrade of the browser plug-in includes a cross-platform, cross-browser version of the .Net Framework and enables a "rich .Net development platform that runs in the browser."
Silverlight competes with Adobe Flash for playing multimedia content online. The beta 1 release of Silverlight 2 provides a set of new features for RIA development. Those include a user interface framework based on Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation, a graphical subsystem feature of the .Net framework.
In addition, the upgrade includes a set of built-in controls to shorten the time for building applications. Those controls include core form controls, such as TextBox, CheckBox, and RadioButton; built-in layout management panels, including StackPanel and Grid; functionality controls, such as Slider, ScrollViewer, Calendar, and DatePicker; and data-manipulation controls, including DataGrid and ListBox.
Beta 1 of Silverlight 2 also includes networking support for calling a lightweight markup language REST (reStructuredText), Web services/SOAP, POX, RSS, and standard HTTP services.
Silverlight 2 does not require the .Net framework on a computer in order to run, Guthrie said. "The Silverlight setup download includes everything necessary to enable all the above features (and more we'll be talking about shortly) on a vanilla Mac OS X or Windows machine."
The Beta 1 release of Silverlight 2 is 4.3 MB and will take 4 to 10 seconds to install in a machine, Guthrie said. Once the plug-in is installed, developers will be able to run Silverlight applications within the browser of their choice.
Microsoft unveiled the first version of Silverlight in September. It's meant to challenge Adobe's Flash environment, which dominates the market for tools that allow developers to add interactive graphics and videos to Web sites. Major League Baseball, Fox Movies, and NBCOlympics.com at MSN are among the organizations that have said they'll use Silverlight.