Silverlight 3 is out, now for 4!
Silverlight 3 has just been released to much hoopla and razzmatazz and from what I’ve heard there is a lot in the box for developers in the guise of new capabilities and performance improvements.
That’s all well and good and doubtless will make for better applications but I can’t help thinking there isn’t much in the box that I would call explicit new user features. Yes, developers can build better applications and that is obviously of benefit to users but other than being able to take applications out-of-browser there isn’t much here that users will see different from Silverlight 2.
I’m sure that will change with Silverlight 4; for example its strongly rumoured that Silverlight 4 will enable apps to interact with peripherals such as webcams and another one I heard was that right-click context menus will start to be supported. All good stuff.
There’s one feature though that I believe could be a knockout blow, namely Live Framework support!
For those that don’t know, Live Framework is a programming interface that allows a developer to interact with a sync data model called the Live Operating Environment (LOE) – it enables developers to store data from one device and have it automatically sync to any other device that the user owns. Does that sound at all familiar? If you are using Live Mesh then it should do because Live Mesh is simply an application that sits on top of LOE and it uses the Live Framework to interact with it.
So what capabilities would Live Framework support in Silverlight provide for users? Well here’s one example; Silverlight enables an application to persist data into an area called Isolated Storage, this is typically used for storing usernames and passwords to save the user from typing them in every time. Unfortunately the user has to enter those usernames/passwords on every computer on which they have the application installed which is a bit of a pain however this is exactly the sort of scenario that Live Framework is intended to alleviate. If the application developer chose to store those usernames/passwords in LOE rather than Isolated Storage then they would be available on any machine on which the application runs thus saving the user from having to type them in again. Pretty cool!
Another ability provided by the Live Framework is the ability to cache data offline and for that data caching to happen “behind the scenes”. Silverlight 3 enables applications to run offline but frankly there isn’t much use in doing this because of the miniscule amount of storage available in Isolated Storage. Imagine if your Netflix movies automatically appeared on your computer and you could watch them while offline, in Silverlight. Perhaps even on your mobile phone. That’s another capability that could be provided by the Live Framework.
Anyone on the Live Framework Technical Preview will know that we can already build Silverlight applications on top of the Live Framework however some additional steps are required – it would be much better if this support were native to Silverlight. I’m inclined to believe that this is exactly why the out-of-browser feature has appeared in Silverlight 3 – its a precursor to something much bigger and better in the future, namely the convergence of Silverlight and the Live Framework.