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Microsoft’s (s MSFT) Silverlight client may have finally reached critical mass, with installation on more than 60 percent of all Internet devices, according to one Microsoft exec. Brad Becker, director of product management for rich client platforms at Microsoft, told us in a phone interview that the rich Internet application plugin has seen strong momentum recently, with the percentage of Internet devices the Silverlight client has been installed on increasing by a third — to 60 percent from 45 percent — in just the last four months.
The news that Silverlight has finally surpassed the 50 percent-mark comes on the heels of Microsoft’s touting of new features added to the framework at its MIX10 developer’s conference last week. With the release of Silverlight 4, Microsoft is taking a big step toward extending the Silverlight client beyond the desktop and onto mobile devices, where it will be the de facto application platform for Windows Phone 7 smartphones. Add to that out-of-browser support on the desktop, and Microsoft has made it easy for businesses to develop apps that can transfer data from the PC to mobile devices without having to build out multiple applications.
To extend its usefulness to the mobile world, Microsoft has added a host of new features to Silverlight, including multitouch support, as well as support for accelerometers, the GPS-based Microsoft location service and push notifications. The application framework also has audio and video capture for built-in mics and cameras, which should allow mobile developers to create VoIP and live streaming video apps that will compete with similar offerings already available on Apple (s AAPL) iPhone, Google Android (s GOOG) and BlackBerry (s RIMM) mobile phones.
While most of the big video upgrades to the framework came in the Silverlight 3 release, it has also received some updates on the media side as well. As such, Silverlight 4 supports hardware accelerated video with multi-codec DRM and smooth streaming support. The new version will also support vector and bitmap graphics with perspective 3-D.
In terms of adoption, Silverlight still heavily lags Adobe (s ADBE) Flash, which claims to be installed on 98 percent of all Internet-connected PCs. But Becker says that Silverlight has finally reached critical mass — that it’s no longer a question of if the platform will catch on and receive mass adoption among consumers, but when.
Microsoft has always professed that, with a half-million Silverlight developers and 6 million .NET developers in the world, it was only a matter of time before their skills would be used for Silverlight applications. Now, with an install base on more than 60 percent of Internet devices, media companies and enterprises building web apps might finally be more comfortable that at least a solid majority of users will be able to access services built on Silverlight.
Silverlight has been used by a number of media companies for their video projects, including Major League Soccer, eBay (s EBAY), Netflix (s NFLX), the Associated Press, the BBC and NBCOlympics.com (s GE). Microsoft is also putting more support behind Silverlight on its own sites and web applications, including Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, the Bing toolbar, Bing Visual Search and Bing Maps, Bing Videos (formerly MSN Videos), Windows Live, and the Xbox and Zune web sites.
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