All eyes have been on Microsoft ever since its BUILD conference got underway in Anaheim, California on Tuesday. While Redmond is using the new event primarily to acquaint developers with Windows 8, it’s also giving just about everyone else a glimpse of the operating system’s future in the process. Talking about the future, there seems to be an emerging consensus around the tech world that it’s going to be pretty bleak for plugins like Flash and Silverlight.
According to istartedsomething, the modding community is making some headway in jailbreaking Windows Phone 7. Microsoft has chosen to go the Apple route and is not allowing sideloading of apps on the devices. Furthermore, apps must run in the managed environment of Microsoft's Silverlight architecture. The first step in a stable jailbreak has been accomplished by Australian developer Chris Walshie. Walshie has been able to build an app out of native code, and run it on a retail Windows Phone 7 handset.
The breakthrough was made possible by users of the XDA Developers forums who found a Samsung app in the official Marketplace that used native code. This app contained a DLL that enabled root access to the core of the Windows CE-based system. All that remains is devising a method of sideloading native code apps on a retail (non-developer) device. We have confidence that the community will work something out sooner rather than later.
According to a Microsoft representative, Redmond will ship the fourth version of its Silverlight rich Internet browser plug-in platform on Thursday, which will take aim at businesses with things like printing and control capabilities.
"A lot of the corporate accounts that we work with, a lot of the ISVs that we work with, they've been waiting for this functionality," said Eddie Amso, Microsoft general manager for developer platform and tools product management and marketing.
This will be the first Silverlight to officially support Google's Chrome browser. Other features include performance optimizations so that Silverlight 4 apps start quicker and run up to 200 percent faster, multi-touch support, the ability to scroll through long lists using a mouse wheel, drag and drop support for data binding, and more.
If there's one thing I hate, it's plugin problems. That's plug-ins as in browser plugins, or one of the few reasons why I switched from Mozilla Firefox to Google Chrome for my default browser. In Chrome, a crashing plugin only affects itself; the rest of the browser is spared the messy issues (and random shutdown) that arise from problems on a page. The worst that can happen is that the actual tab your own shuts down: the rest of your browsing experience should remain unaffected by a plugin catastrophe.
Well, Firefox is borrowing a page from Google's book of process isolation, for that's the exact technique that Mozilla has built into the Lorentz version of its popular browser. The various tabs you open in Firefox Lorentz remain isolated from each other's wicked ways, in that crashing plugins will only affect the page or tab they're on--prompting a gray fade-out of your screen and an automatic reload, if you so choose. The rest of your multi-tab browser will stay exactly the same as it was pre-crash.
It’s often said that HTML5 will take over the web and push out the current mishmash of standards. Microsoft and Adobe would like to respectfully disagree with that. At the recent Open Source Business Conference executives from both companies said they believe the future of the web will include their proprietary formats, Flash and Silverlight.
Microsoft did have nice things to say about HTML5 though. They plan to use the standard in conjunction with their own plug-ins. Adobe too said they’d utilize HTML5, pointing to their web tools space. Of open source in general, both execs agreed that it could be an efficient way to distribute software.
The battle for multimedia delivery is still just getting under way, but plug-ins (especially Flash) have a big head start. Do you think HTML5 will come out on top, or are we looking at a mixture of standards?
Bing Maps just keeps getting cooler -- some would say more so than Google Maps -- and the latest trick will appeal to star gazers and armchair astronomers alike. Evolving from a client-based app to a Silverlight web-based implmentation, the WorldWide Telescope (WWT) project is now a Bing Mapps app.
"The WorldWide Telescope application allows you to view most of the features available in the Silverlight client right in Bing Maps," Chris Pendleton a Bing Maps Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, wrote in a blog post. "Yes, the WWT provides real time information about how the space is moving over the Earth. This provides context for where celestial entities are in real time if you were to look up at the night sky."
To try it out for yourself, just head over to Bing Maps and click the Map Apps button in the lower left. Select WorldWide Telescope (first row) and start gazing! If you want to jump straight to the stars, click on Start Here and drop the telescope icon anywhere on the map. As you drag the map, Bing will tell you which constellation you're looking at.
"Now, if you want the SUPER COOL effect you saw Blaise Arcas y Aguera demonstrate at TED you can just click on one of the collections which zips you down to Earth and changes the map stype to Streetside (where available)," Pendleton explains. "Once you're on the ground, just look up!"
You don't hear much about Silverlight these days, but rest assured, Microsoft is still hard at work on the speedy little flash competitor. Of course, a platform is only as powerful as its applications, and a new Silverlight Facebook client does a fantastic job of showcasing this power. The lightweight and lightening fast new interface works on both Mac's and PC's, and is a significant improvement to the look and feel of Facebook.
Created using the developer preview edition of Silverlight 4, the new Facebook client pretty much bypasses any need you would ever have to visit the full website. You can access your groups, friends list, inbox, and even upload / manage your photo galleries. It makes a great alternative for those who wish to get caught up with family and friends in peace, while conveniently doing away with those pesky ads.
Future versions are expected to strip away the Window chrome , and will allow you to quickly and easily import pictures from a digital camera directly into any photo gallery. To give the beta a spin, simply navigate on over to the landing page to install the new version of Silverlight. Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments after the jump.
Microsoft's Bing Maps Silverlight version is growing up fast, so much so that Microsoft is taking it out of beta, the Redmond outfit announced this week.
Not everyone will see the changes right away, and instead, Microsoft is planning a slow rollout. Within a few weeks, everyone in the U.S. should see the Silverlight maps by default. In the meantime, the AJAX site will still work, and users will be able to toggle between the two versions.
This is a pretty big step for Bing, one which some would argue puts the search decision engine ahead of Google in the maps arena. Because it's powered by Silverlight, it's a more robust experience than Google Maps, allowing users to seamlessly switch between maps, satellite images, and detailed aerial photos. But is it a Google Maps killer?
Not quite. Google Maps still has some features that Bing doesn't, like better local searches with Place Pages. And while Silverlight is what gives Bing Maps an edge, it also means installing a plug-in that you might not have otherwise wanted.
Novell this week announced the availability of Moonlight 2, essentially an open-source Linux version of Microsoft's Silverlight platform. In addition, Microsoft and Novell said they plan on expanding their collaboration on Moonlight to include support for Moonlight implementations of Silverlight versions 3 and 4..
The companies say Moonlight 2 is interoperable with Microsoft Silverlight 2 and includes some features of Silverlight 3, including support for Bitmap APIs, file dialogs, easing functions, pluggable media pipeline, and custom codecs.
"Moonlight development is quickly catching up to Microsoft Silverlight with each release," Novell said. "A preview release of Moonlight 3 will be made available in the first quarter of 2010 with a final release scheduled for the third quarter of 2010. Moonlight 4 will follow shortly thereafter."
Novel says Moonlight has been downloaded 1.3 million times so far.
Microsoft is giving Bing Maps a much needed refresh in an attempt to compete with Google’s dominant product. The new beta utilizes Microsoft’s own Silverlight multimedia plugin to provide smoother zooming and redraws. It also allows some very nice looking 3D building maps. It certainly does feel like a very polished experience, in contrast to Google’s more utilitarian aesthetic.
Microsoft is also working on a new Application Gallery framework for Bing Maps. These will mostly take the form of data overlays on the maps. One of the first available is a Twitter layer that shows nearby tweets. This is an interesting use of the twitter data fire hose that Bing now has access to. A similar app called Local Lens shows the locations of local blogs based on contextual clues in the posts.
Will the enhancements help make Bing more visible? While it is an interesting interface, the future is still murky in the shadow of Google. This much is certain though: Microsoft is prepared to work hard to take a piece of the search market they feel they disserve.Check out the beta here.