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Microsoft's Silverlight for mobile to muscle iPhone

Zoomier, touchier, less Appley

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Mix 09 The planned mobile edition of Microsoft's Silverlight media player is shaping up to be a touchy-feely alternative to Apple's iPhone.

Microsoft has told The Reg that Silverlight for Mobile will now include all the features found on Silverlight for the desktop, including Deep Zoom, which lets you keep drilling and drilling into a picture while retaining crystal-sharp clarity on minute details.

Scott Guthrie, vice president of the .NET development platform, told us unequivocally: "Deep Zoom will be in. Our goal is to keep the experience between desktop and mobile basically the same."

Last October, when we spoke to the Silverlight for mobile team at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference (PDC) a big question mark was hanging over Deep Zoom's inclusion. The problem was Microsoft felt issues like latency on a mobile phone network combined with limited processing on the handset could slow down the zooming effect crippling the user's "experience."

What appears to be changing the equation is Silverlight 3, released to beta this week at Microsoft's Mix 09. Silverlight 3 introduces hardware acceleration missing in previous versions, something Microsoft apparently feels can overcome local processing issues.

Silverlight 3 also introduced support for multi-touch - the ability to poke and pull applications, as you would on the iPhone using two fingers, for example. Other features in Silverlight 3 would help particularly when it comes to streaming video. Smooth Streaming detects and automatically switches video quality based on CPU and bandwidth.

Multi-touch combined with Deep Zoom would raise the prospect of drilling into things like maps or photos on phone, as you can on the iPhone.

"The nice thing about Deep Zoom and one of the reasons it is compelling is you can start with a very small image or asset and as you go in you are not pulling in the entire image. You are just pulling in a tile for that region. If anything, Deep Zoom is more relevant for mobile," Guthrie said.

"Something like Deep Zoom coupled with hardware acceleration and multi-touch means you can start to do some pretty interesting things on the phone."

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