Microsoft unveils Silverlight 4 beta

The next version of the Flash rival gets a performance boost and new features.

Silverlight logo

Microsoft has released a beta of Silverlight 4 at its Professional Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The long-awaited update to Microsoft's Flash rival was showcased in detail to PDC delegates yesterday, who got a glimpse of its simplified handling of rich media applications on both a developer and user level.

As expected, Silverlight 4 offers dramatically improved off-browser features including webcam and microphone access, multi-cast streaming and offline DRM support.

Printing from within Silverlight is now supported, as is clipboard access, drag-and-drop and client-side HTML hosting. Google Chrome support has also been added.

Speaking to PDC delegates, .Net corporate vice-president Scott Guthrie said Silverlight 4 contained 70 per cent of the features asked for in a poll of 12,000 developers earlier this year.

However, the 5MB download size still means Silverlight is still a long way from making a play for the mobile phone market.

But it's certainly more streamlined, with a speedier start-up than Silverlight 3 and processing speeds up to twice as fast. New APIs allow resizing and positioning of desktop content away from the browser in real time, clearly a response to Adobe's AIR platform.

Version 4 builds on the application sandbox of Silverlight 3 by letting 'trusted applications' now run outside the sandbox so long as developer and end user give their express consent.

As expected, Internet Information Services (IIS) Smooth streaming was introduced, which lets developers code video just once for a variety of clients. Guthrie attempted to show off an iPhone-optimised setting to illustrate its potential, but had problems setting it up.

Silverlight 4 will be released in full in the first half of 2010 the beta can be downloaded here.

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