The rumors of Silverlight’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Microsoft might be leaning heavily on HTML5 for web application development, but it is still adding features and functionality to its rich Internet application framework. With the release of Silverlight 5 on Thursday, Microsoft added 40 new features to optimize the development framework for media and business applications.
Silverlight 5 adds GPU-accelerated hardware video decoding, which improves video performance while reducing CPU load, especially on low-power devices like netbooks and mobile handsets. Also key for mobile devices is improved power awareness, which will keep screensavers from kicking in while users are watching video, and allowing devices to sleep when video isn’t on.
On the media side, Silverlight also has improved digital rights management (DRM) tools to allow switching between media sources and support Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) formats, and Microsoft has added support for remote controls. Silverlight 5 also added “Trickplay,” a feature that allows variable video and audio playback.
That Microsoft continues to iterate on Silverlight is good news for developers who may have been worried that it would de-emphasize the platform in lieu of support for HTML5. Even so, the features added to Silverlight 5 pale in comparison to earlier updates. Silverlight 3, for instance, added H.264 support, as well as HTTP-based, live adaptive streaming. Silverlight 4, meanwhile, was a big step toward making Silverlight key to its Windows Phone 7 development platform.
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