Today, Microsoft announced the first public versions of its Silverlight application for creating and experiencing rich, interactive applications online. There are two different versions of the cross-browser plug-in: Silverlight 1.0 beta (download for Windows or Mac) and Silverlight 1.1 alpha (download for Windows or Mac).
The big difference between 1.0 beta and 1.1 alpha versions is that the 1.1 alpha allows developers to create Silverlight applications using .NET technologies such as C#. If you don't care much about that new advancement, you probably won't be too excited about some of the sample Silverlight applications that have been created.
Aside from the sample applications in the gallery, there's also a sleek 20th Century Fox movie player built with Silverlight that's currently showing trailers for Fantastic Four, Pathfinder, and Live Free or Die Hard.
One big question about Silverlight is whether or not it will support Linux. Adobe caught a lot of flack from Web developers for being too slow to release a version of Flash 9 for Linux, which essentially forced Web site managers to maintain different content for Linux users. If Silverlight doesn't hit all the major platforms (Windows, Mac, and Linux), it may be difficult for site managers to adopt the technology.
It's obvious that Silverlight is a play by Microsoft to make a dent in the market share for Adobe Flash, which is the undisputed leader in the field of rich Internet applications. Considering that Flash has more than a 10-year head start on Silverlight, the new kid has his work cut out for him.
What's not obvious about Silverlight is whether or not Microsoft will take the same route as Adobe Flex and make any of the code open source. There have been rumors to that effect for months now, but the software giant has definitely not confirmed anything yet.
For further demonstration of the possibilities of Silverlight, check out a video of a prototype Netflix online-movie service in a Webware.com report from Microsoft's Mix 07 conference.