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Microsoft has come a step closer to releasing the next version of its Silverlight browser plug in.

With all eyes on an official release of Silverlight 2.0 around the company's Professional Developers' Conference (PDC) this month, Microsoft has issued the first runtime and tools release candidates.

The Silverlight 2.0 package is available as an add-in for English-language versions of Visual Studio 2008 Service Pack (SP) 1 and Visual Web Developer 2008 Express SP1. The kit lets you build Silverlight 2.0 applications using Microsoft's C# and Visual Basic.

Before you get too excited, corporate vice president of Microsoft's developer division Scott Guthrie has warned this is the developer runtime edition of Silverlight 2.0 only, with the regular end-user edition due later this fall.

Guthrie said the release gives existing developers time to update their applications with the Silverlight 2.0 APIs before sites are allowed to go live.

"There are some breaking changes between Beta2 and this RC, and we want to make sure that existing sites can update to the final release quickly once the final release is out," Guthrie said. "As such, you can only use the RC for development right now - you can't go live with the new APIs until the final release is shipped (which will be soon though)," Guthrie said.

The release candidate can be downloaded from here. ®

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