Microsoft touts industry's shift to the Web with next versions of Internet Explorer, Silverlight
Microsoft provided a detailed look at forthcoming versions of two of its most important Web-related products: Internet Explorer and Silverlight.
Seattle Times technology reporter
LAS VEGAS — Microsoft continued beating the drum for its shift to online services Wednesday, providing a detailed look at forthcoming versions of two of its most important Web-related products.
Ray Ozzie, the company's rarely seen chief software architect, expanded on the message he's delivered since arriving nearly three years ago:
The Internet is the center of our digital lives. More software functions will be accessed as online services via a range of devices. Advertising is the economic engine of this big structural change in the industry.
The rise of social networks, blogs, video and music sharing has "created a highly engaging world of social media and social commerce on the Net," Ozzie told more than 1,500 Web developers and designers here for Microsoft's Mix conference.
As these technologies attract more people to spend more time online, advertising has emerged as "an incredible economic force in our industry," he said. " ... Advertising is going to continue to be the primary way that we and you monetize services and apps of all kinds on the Web."
In a companywide effort to grab more of that ad revenue, Microsoft has been on a building and buying spree — including its effort to acquire Yahoo, about which Ozzie said little.
Executives here instead outlined new features in an early test version of Internet Explorer 8 — a key piece because the Web browser is the gateway to the Internet.
In recent years, Mozilla's Firefox browser has cut into Microsoft's market share, though Internet Explorer still dominates.
IE8's new features will include WebSlices, which allows users to keep an eye on information from a specific page, such as an eBay auction or a stock ticker, without constantly returning to its source. Another is Activities, which allows users to select text on a Web page and a right-click of the mouse will bring up a menu of options, including sending the text to a blog, looking up words or mapping addresses.
Another major change in IE8 is support for standards that make Internet sites appear and behave the same way, regardless of the browser.
"Web developers spend so much time tweaking their code to get it to look the same in Firefox as it does in Internet Explorer," said Chris Swenson, director of software industry analysis at The NPD Group. " ... These guys are jumping up for joy."
The standards support should also satisfy the European Union's antitrust investigation into complaints raised by Opera, another Web browser, he said.
Besides working on IE8, Microsoft in the past year has charged into the market for distributing online video and animation with Silverlight, a competitor to Adobe's dominant Flash. The free download, which plugs into any browser, was released in September and is being downloaded more than 1.5 million times a day.
Microsoft showed off features of its successor, which it released in test form Wednesday.
The marquee Silverlight 2 application is a major site NBC is developing to put an unprecedented amount of live Web video — 2,200 hours, or 1,000 more than the network plans to broadcast on TV — from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Microsoft announced in January that NBC had selected Silverlight for its Olympics site, but Wednesday was the first time it was demonstrated for a large audience.
The site will have full-screen video of games with interactive features so viewers can learn more about individual events or athletes. It will allow user-directed instant replay; picture-in-picture; alerts; tools to share highlights via e-mail; and other ways to discover and watch Olympic sports.
The crowd here greeted the demonstration enthusiastically.
Traffic to the site will likely drive adoption of the Silverlight 2 platform, a key part of Microsoft's strategy to get more developers to build applications and content for it.
"One of the challenges of launching a new browser plug-in is getting deployment ... so that as a Web developer you can just depend on it being there, already installed in the browser," said Scott Guthrie, vice president of Microsoft's .NET developer division.
Microsoft is pushing to get Silverlight on more mobile devices and this week scored a big win with Nokia, the world's largest mobile-phone maker. Nokia plans to install the software on its Series 60, Series 40 and Internet-tablet devices this year.
Asked whether Silverlight could appear on the iPhone, Guthrie said that's up to Apple, which plans to provide details of a software-development kit today.
"Certainly from our strategy perspective, we'd like to be able to run Silverlight everywhere that has any kind of market share," he said.
Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs told Adobe that Flash Lite — a mobile-focused version of the dominant Adobe product — wasn't going to fly on the iPhone.
Other Silverlight 2 features include support for embedded advertising. DoubleClick, the online ad giant whose sale to Google is expected to gain approval from European regulators soon, took the stage and said it is supporting the technology.
Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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