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Microsoft Previews NAB Demos, Silverlight Advances

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Setting the stage for next week's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced technologies it will demo which will take Silverlight into new areas and deliver new features.

Silverlight Reaches the TV
Silverlight will finally reach the living room, says Steve Sklepowich, director of Silverlight at Microsoft. A full version of Silverlight on a chip will be available to Intel and Broadcom-based set-top and Blu-ray device makers later this fall, bringing the full Silverlight experience to the TV. Viewers will get the same Silverlight experience that they've had on their computers, while content providers will get DRM so they can add usage rules. Microsoft will demo the chips in a living room scenario at NAB.

"There's a huge demand from companies coming to us asking for this functionality," says Sklepowich. While he won't say which box-makers are looking to use the chips, he says we can expect to see proof-of-concept boxes a few months after the chips are released in the fall, with the first consumer devices likely available early in 2011.

Server Extras
Microsoft will also show off improvements to IIS Media Services with the 4.0 release. The platform already gained Smooth Streaming during the Beijing Olympics, and now H.264 Smooth Streaming with PlayReady DRM will be available for multicast networks. Multicast is typically used behind a firewall, when corporate bigwigs address their workers. Now variable rate streams will be available to those viewers.

IIS Media Services 4.0 will also gain the ability to convert files to Apple's MPEG-2 protocol to deliver smooth HTTP streaming to the iPhone or iPad. Microsoft will demo delivery to both those devices at NAB. If you have an iPhone, you can sample it now at http://www.iis.net/iphone

Microsoft is also making efforts to reduce latency with this release. Currently, there's a 10 to 15 second delay on Silverlight video, so if you're watching an event on both your TV and computer, you'll see it 10 to 15 seconds later on your computer. That's a problem for financial clients who need real-time information. Improvements to the client and server should push that down to 1.5 seconds. A beta of IIS Media Services 4.0 will be available soon after NAB.

Open Source Upgrade
Microsoft will release the open source Silverlight Media Framework 2.0 version, which will have all the features viewers enjoyed with the Vancouver Olympics video, including multicamera, markers, DVR functionality, slo-mo, alternate language tracks, and quick rewind. New extensibility hooks will let companies plug in their own systems, such as advertising solutions. Companies should be able to get up to speed quickly, says Sklepowich, and build an amazing custom player. Ooyala and Kaltura are announcing support for the player.

Silverlight's analytics framework is also getting improved, and will tie in with a slew of analytics providers, including Google Analytics, Omniture, and Nielsen. Providers will be able to get deep information about both online and offline viewing. The 2.0 version will be released shortly after NAB, with the release of Silverlight 4.0.

Microsoft Silverlight is approaching 60 percent user penetration, Sklepowich noted. At NAB, Microsoft will also demo 3D HD streaming to televisions, as well as 1080p streaming to a netbook.

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