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Microsoft crashes Adobe RIA party

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Adobe MAX Microsoft has tried to cast a shadow over RIA and cloud news at Adobe Systems' annual MAX conference by talking up Silverlight's roadmap.

Barely a month after shipping Silverlight 2 Microsoft has offered a "peek" of the next version of its browser-based media plug-in rival to Adobe's Flash Player on the opening day of MAX. Microsoft also - helpfully - reminded people Silverlight has attracted early industry support.

Corporate vice president of Microsoft's developer division Scott Guthrie blogged Silverlight 3, due next year, would include "major enhancements" in media, graphics, and development.

Silverlight 3 will support H.264 video, 3D, and GPU hardware acceleration and rich-data binding in Visual Studio and Visual Web Developer Express. He promised: "We have plenty of additional cool features we are going to keep up our sleeves a little longer."

Guthrie also flagged up early users NBC Olympics, CBS College Sports, Netflix and - significantly - Blockbuster, who he pointed out had dropped Adobe's Flash for Silverlight for its MovieLink application.

The posturing came as Adobe kicked off MAX where it announced updates to Flash, AIR, and hosted services for mobile, RIA, and cloud computing. Adobe fielded its own team of supporters, with an endorsement from Disney and - Adobe was quick to point out - Major League Baseball (MLB).

Microsoft trumpeted MLB.com as the first major user of Silverlight 1.0 in August 2007. MLB will now use Flash Player to stream all matches from its site.

Adobe also got a blessing - of sorts - from Google. The search giant's director of mobile platforms Andy Ruben joined Adobe's chief technology officer Kevin Lynch for a demo of Flash on Google's Android. Flash for Android is still in development, along with Flash Player for Apple's iPhone.

Again, Adobe's going up against Microsoft on mobile as the latter is building a version of Silverlight 2.0 for mobile. Preview code is due early next year.

Mobile and devices were a major theme of the morning. Adobe announced the Flash Distributable Player that'll let you pack up and deliver Flash applications and the Flash Lite player to phones not-yet running Flash, on Symbian, Android, Windows Mobile, and "open systems".

Flash Lite Distributable Player will deliver apps through a content aggregator or your own site, and install applications in a menu where the user can load it, instead of a sub folder.

The goal is to get Flash running on a greater number of mobile devices. Lynch said Flash Player would be running on one billion devices by 2009, a year ahead of Adobe's original goal. "It's great but not sufficient," Lynch said. "There are more than one billion phones out there."

He also encouraged developers to target mobile devices instead of the PC or as an adjunct to PCs, as so much internet access is now done via mobile phones.

Released this morning was a preview of Adobe's planned application development and design environment Thermo, along with an official name: Flash Catalyst.

Flash Catalyst will let designs built in Adobe 's Creative Suite 4 be imported with all the necessary elements, with workflows integrating CS and Flash Builder. Flash Catalyst will let design and coding to be done simultaneously for deployment on Flash Player or AIR. A public beta is planned for early 2009.

Catalyst will tap into the next version of Adobe's Eclipse-based coding environment Flex Builder, codenamed Gumbo. A preview of Gumbo was released at the show.

Also announced was Cocomo, Adobe's move to add collaboration and social networking to RIAs. Cocomo will combine a Flex-based client running on a hosted platform, and let you add data messaging, VoIP, webcam video, text-based chat, and contextual presence to audio and video applications built using Flash and AIR the company said.

Lynch told MAX Adobe's building out a number of its own hosted services, such as Acrobat.com.

AIR 1.5 for Windows and Mac was released featuring the WebKit HTML engine and SquirrelFish Web Kit JavaScript interpreter, for fast HTML and JavaScript rendering. AIR 1.5 for Linux is due in the "next couple of weeks" Lynch said.

Other features include encrypted database along with features from Flash Player 10, released recently, such as custom filters and effects and layout of rich text.

Flash Player 10 for 64-bit Linux, meanwhile, was also announced. ®

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