Silverlight 5 Arrives Amid Doubts Over Future

Pulkit Chandna

Even though it too hankers after a plugin-free web like everyone and their mother these days, it seems that Microsoft isn’t averse to the odd “free plug-in” in the meantime. The Redmond-based software company released the latest version of its Silverlight plugin this past Friday. This is the fifth release of the plugin and comes more than two years after the release of Silverlight 4.

“New features in Silverlight 5 include Hardware Decode of H.264 media, which provides a significant performance improvement with decoding of unprotected content using the GPU; Postscript Vector Printing to improve output quality and file size; and an improved graphics stack with 3D support that uses the XNA API on the Windows platform to gain low-level access to the GPU for drawing vertex shaders and low-level 3D primitives,” the Silverlight team announced last week.

“In addition, Silverlight 5 extends the ‘Trusted Application’ model to the browser for the first time. These features, when enabled via a group policy registry key and an application certificate, mean users won’t need to leave the browser to perform complex tasks such as multiple window support, full trust support in browser including COM and file system access, in browser HTML hosting within Silverlight, and P/Invoke support for existing native code to be run directly from Silverlight.”

There is a huge question mark over the future of this browser plugin beyond the current release. Born in a world obsessed with death in general and the death of browser plugins in particular, Silverlight 5 is being viewed as something that has been born only so it can die - and put an end to the whole platform.

With Microsoft already ditching plugins like Flash and Silverlight in Windows 8’s Metro-style IE10 app, Silverlight’s future as a browser plugin - if not on other platforms like Windows Phone and Xbox 360 - certainly does look pretty bleak.

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