Appendix 2: Rich Media Client Platform Comparison 27
Appendix 3: Media Server Platform Comparison 29
Appendix 4: Top Features & Benefits of Windows Server 2008 31
Appendix 5: Microsoft Expression Encoder 2 33
Appendix 6: Top Features & Benefits of Expression Encoder 35
For More Information 37
Company Information and System Recommendations 38
Company Information 38
System Requirements 38
The User Experience Era in Software
More consumers are using the Web than ever before, and they are spending more time online, consuming, creating, cataloging and critiquing billions of pages each day. With exponential growth in e-commerce transactions and consumer-facing Web sites, it has become increasingly important for businesses to deliver a differentiated User Experience (or “UX”) that not only attracts new users but also keeps them engaged. These satisfied customers are then bringing their higher expectations for user experiences to the workplace, thus raising the bar for enterprise applications as well.
Building these new user experiences requires development tools, flexible platform capabilities, and software services that can deliver the rich, compelling, visuals and interactions that business and consumer scenarios require, while also providing the level of security, scalability, and maintainability that IT departments want.
Overview of Microsoft Rich Platform Ecosystem
To meet these needs, Microsoft has shipped an update to its broad set of platform technologies that dramatically extends the end-user experience of Web, Windows and mobile applications. These technologies are all a part of the .NET Framework, and as such are highly compatible and familiar to the millions of existing .NET developers.
Windows Presentation Foundation (“WPF”) was designed with new technologies and graphics capabilities that offer unprecedented visual fidelity and richer user experience interactions for Windows users. WPF ships with Windows Vista™ as part of the .NET Framework 3.0 and enables the richest desktop experiences possible. Many businesses now value the reach of the Web and devices over the power of the desktop, so Microsoft is now shipping Microsoft Silverlight 2 Beta, a plug-in for browsers that offers a broad cross-platform delivery option for .NET-based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web and devices.
Microsoft is also shipping a preview to the updated Expression family of professional design tools, which aim to reduce the complexity of designing and building applications and Web sites. In the past, designers and developers have often had to collaborate as if by a series of highly inefficient and cryptic smoke signals. Designers created a series of static bitmaps to represent user interface (UI) mockups or wireframes – then handed these off to developers on the project who had to try to recreate or simulate the visuals and behavior that the designer intended. Microsoft’s rich client application platform allows developers to build applications using the .NET Framework and tools, which were built to allow designers and developers to work closely and synchronously to quickly deliver visually engaging and superior user experiences.
Figure 1: Microsoft Application Platform key components
The core technology components for creating compelling RIA and media experiences include:
Microsoft® Silverlight™ is a cross-browser, cross-platform (Mac OS and Windows) and cross-device browser plug-in that helps companies design, develop and deliver media-enabled applications and experiences on the Web. Installed as a stand-alone browser plug-in approximately 4MB in size, Silverlight 2 enables a new class of cross-platform experiences. It supports the industry-leading Windows Media platform and the SMPTE VC-1/WMV9 video standard for compression from HD to mobile. It is also based on the power of .NET, including dozens of built in controls, rich layout and styling, a powerful networking stack, productive data access, data shaping, and much, much more. Silverlight installation is fast and effortless for customers on both Mac OS and Windows platforms today, and it will soon be available on Linux.
Microsoft® Windows® Presentation Foundation (WPF) is a .NET presentation technology for delivering ultimate client experiences that harness the full power of Windows Vista. WPF unifies how Windows creates, displays and manipulates documents, media and the user interface; enabling developers and designers to create visually stunning user experiences with hardware-accelerated 2D/3D graphics and high-definition audio/video.
Microsoft® ASP.NET is a powerful dynamic Web application framework that combines unprecedented developer productivity with performance and reliability. ASP.NET AJAX Extensions makes it easy to create a new generation of highly personalized Web experiences that are more efficient, more interactive, and that work across all the most popular browsers.
Microsoft® Expression® Studio is a family of tools aimed at creative professionals designing solutions built with Microsoft’s platform technologies. Whether creating standards-based Web user interfaces using ASP.NET, building cross-platform Rich Interactive Applications using Silverlight, or creating ultimate Windows Vista experiences using WPF, the Expression tools allow designers to fully apply their creativity while collaborating with developers using Visual Studio.
Microsoft® Visual Studio® offers a family of products for team-based software development. It extends the integration and productivity benefits of Visual Studio for developers to the entire software development team. Visual Studio and Expression Studio share the same project and file formats, allowing developers and designers to collaborate freely while maintaining creative control.
Servers and Services
Microsoft® Windows® Server 2008 will include new features designed to improve the scalability and efficiency of delivering rich media applications on the Web when released later this year. Key features include:
Microsoft® Windows Media® Services 2008, an enterprise-proven, digital media server component that delivers a dramatically improved playback experience and unparalleled audio and video quality when streaming content using Silverlight. New enhancements with the upcoming release of Windows Server 2008 will deliver up to twice the scalability of Windows Server 2003 RTM on existing hardware.
Microsoft® Internet Information Services 7.0 (IIS7) Media Pack provides a secure, scalable, and easy-to-manage way to develop and reliably host Web applications and services, with enhanced progressive download scalability via a bit-rate-throttling feature that can substantially reduce bandwidth costs. It will also support Web Playlists, a new feature which enables server-side control of content and advertising, ensuring that you can protect, personalize, and monetize your media assets.
Silverlight Streaming by Windows Live offers a free media streaming and application hosting solution for delivering high quality cross-platform, cross-browser, media-enabled rich interactive applications (RIAs). With the ability to author content for Silverlight Streaming in Microsoft Expression Encoder and other third-party editing environments, Web designers maintain complete control of the user experience.
Microsoft’s rich client platform, tools, and services create a unified solution that scales to meet the demanding needs of content owners, enterprises, designers, developers and end users with tangible business benefits.
This document, specially prepared for the beta release of Silverlight 2, is designed to highlight Microsoft’s commitment to developers and content professionals interested in the delivery of RIA and media-rich experiences on the Web and beyond with Microsoft Silverlight and related tools, servers, services and solutions.