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Silverlight Will Include CLR, Support for Dynamic Languages

Capability will allow developers to program against Silverlight for both Windows and Mac environments using any .NET-supported languages

Silverlight, Microsoft's new cross-platform browser plug-in, will include the Common Language Runtime native to .NET, the company announced Monday at the annual MIX conference in Las Vegas.

The capability will allow developers to program against Silverlight for both Windows and Mac environments using any .NET-supported languages as well as tools like Visual Studio and Expression Studio.

The intent is to make Silverlight "a full-fledged member of our .NET family," Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie said in his MIX keynote, which was Webcast. Microsoft also announced a new Dynamic Language Runtime that will sit atop the CLR.

Scott Guthrie, general manager of Microsoft's developer division, said in a keynote following Ozzie's that the company is including an implementation of Ruby for .NET, dubbed IronRuby, and. like the previously released IronPython, the source code will be released to the open source community.

In announcing the brand name for Silverlight two weeks ago -- its original codename was the awkward "WPF/E," for Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere -- Microsoft had focused on the plug-in's potential for delivering rich content to browser-based clients, a la Flash, not for deploying apps created in managed-code environments.

But, as Ozzie revealed, Silverlight is meant to be far more than a video player. "The Web over the last years has been mostly about AJAX, about increasing the richness of the user experience through the magic of DHTML and clever browser hackery," Ozzie said. "But AJAX development has its limitations, and certainly there are better languages than JavaScript to use for many of the sophisticated apps that developers want to build," he continued. "In this respect, Silverlight changes the game by giving you a new choice for developing incredibly sophisticated, rich Internet applications in the language of your choice."

The newly announced capabilities, along with support for Microsoft's Language Integrated Query language (LINQ) and cross-platform debugging capabilities, are featured in Silverlight 1.1, now in alpha release.

Microsoft's strategy around Silverlight appears to be a combination of fostering support for its existing technologies, while acknowledging the need to integrate with the larger world of development and the Web. Any type of back-end Web system or technology can be used with Silverlight, and it also includes support for JavaScript and XHTML on the client level.

The 1.0 Beta of Silverlight ships with a "go live" license -- i.e., permission to deploy Silverlight apps in production. Microsoft said the 1.0 release version will land this summer.

Microsoft is competing with rival Adobe for mindshare in the rich Internet applications (RIA) space.

Adobe's Flash technology has become a ubiquitous part of the Web experience, enjoying penetration often estimated in the 90-plus percent range. Microsoft is late to the fight with Silverlight, but the company has a massive user base in place through its browser and operating system, which it can leverage to distribute and foster the new technology.

Now the companies are battling for the hearts, minds and wallets of developers and designers. Last week, Adobe announced it is releasing its Flex SDK to the open source community. That move followed its decision last year to give the source code for the ActionScript Virtual Machine to the Mozilla Foundation, as part of an open source project known as Tamarin.

Ozzie has been a fleeting public figure since filling the shoes of Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates in the chief architect role about one year ago. Ozzie didn’t directly address the Adobe challenge during Monday's keynote remarks, but did describe Microsoft's RIA vision.

"Back in the '80s, at the dawn of the PC revolution, the explosion in PC demand was fueled by the ability to create documents, words, numbers, charts, presentations," Ozzie said. "Today, the explosion of PCs, devices, and services is being fueled by the democratization of media. We're delivering a complete family of tools and framework for the design, development, and deployment of media rich applications from Silverlight on the Web to the full .NET Framework in Windows, from Visual Studio for developers, to Expression Studio for designers."

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