As I speak, we’re propping websites to introduce Microsoft Silverlight to the content creation and media community. What is Microsoft Silverlight? It’s our solution for delivering media experiences with audio, video, animation, and interactivity cross-browser (e.g. Firefox, Safari, IE) and cross-platform (Mac and Windows). Why are we doing it? We’ve been listening to customers about the growing evolution of digital media as more than a destination, but an integral part of experiences on the web. Just like in the gaming community, user expectation of what makes a good web experience are increasing. But then so are the costs of delivering those experiences. Silverlight will address the rising costs of creation and rich media delivery in two key ways- providing a consistent set of tools for development and design teams building applications for the Web and Windows, and support for lower cost of delivery of audio and video experiences when used with Windows Media Streaming – a benefit widely known in the industry (more on that later).
But it’s about more than a browser plug-in. It’s about the ecosystem. On Day 1, Silverlight will work with the millions of Windows Media and VC-1 assets available on the Web. It will work with Windows Media streaming servers, a much more efficient and responsible use of bandwidth on the web when compared to less scalable or bloated mechanisms such as progressive download. The average viewer watches less than 20 seconds of a video that gets downloaded. When the video is 5 minutes long, and the entire video still gets delivered, that’s a waste. It’s like turning the fire hose on to fill a paper cup.
So, we’re making new investments for Creation and Distribution of Silverlight media as well, including:
– Expression Media Encoder for publishing live and on-demand video on the Web that works on Mac and Windows, all using customizable templates for web UX. Oh and guess what- it’s going to be pluggable, supporting import of QuickTime, AVI, WMV, and any other well-formed DShow-based video format out of the gate, and publishing with the industry-recognized SMPTE VC-1 (WMV-9) format. (SMPTE is Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers). WMV today provides a single-codec solution that scales and is used from Archive to Mobile in a re-editable format. Expression Media Encoder can also be run on the server.
– Hardware accelerated encoding support with Intel spinoff Tarari’s Accelerator boards. Time is money in the encoding world- you can encode significantly more content more cost-effectively, up to 15x faster for HD, and around 8x faster for SD content when dropping one of these boards into your server.
– Expression Blend – A new design tool for creating interactive experiences consistently for the Web and Windows, Blend will also support the creation of templates, “skins”, or applications that can be published with Expression Media Encoder.
– Windows Media Streaming – New features to be made available in Windows Server code-name, “Longhorn” can increase scalability by up to 2x over Windows Server 2003. The cost benefits of streaming are well known as well. If you want DVD-like functionality with Fast streaming, ability to jump to any point in your video instantly, a proven system for ad-insertion, and mature support for live streaming, Windows Media Streaming delivers today a reported 3-4 times the scalability of other solutions. And we’re going to make that even better. Details on the NAB show floor and here shortly.
– IIS7 Media Pack – For those customers who plan to deliver progressively downloaded applications and media, IIS7 will include bit-rate throttling to more effectively deliver downloaded media.
One of the great things about Silverlight is that it plugs right into the existing Windows Media ecosystem. All the millions of hours of content available in Windows Media on the web will be able to be downloaded or streamed.
Early customer support for Silverlight has been amazing. Content providers including Major League Baseball, NetFlix, and even Web 2.0 darling Brightcove have announced support along with a growing list of partners.
Two weeks from now, you’ll hear a lot more about the whole developer and designer story at MIX 07. We’re just talking about the media aspects right now. I’m going to be very busy with press and partner meetings over the next few days- but will do my best to touch base here.