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Microsoft's Silverlight for mobile to muscle iPhone

Zoomier, touchier, less Appley

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This touchy, stretchy platform would potentially not be limited to just Windows-Mobile devices, as Silverlight is browser-based so can straddle devices. Also, Microsoft is conducting a large private beta that includes different handset manufactures, service providers, and operating-system companies. Nokia, meanwhile, has already said it would put Silverlight on its handsets, which opens the prospect of Silverlight on Symbian.

As for Windows, Microsoft has already discussed Windows Mobile 6.5 as having touch, but it hasn't gone into too many details. This is really coming across as a point release, though, with attention already focusing on its successor operating system, Windows Mobile 7.0.

In a further change from last October, meanwhile, Microsoft has decided against a public beta of Silverlight for mobile this quarter.

Guthrie said Microsoft felt "pretty good" about the feedback it's getting from the private beta. He would not provide a date of a public beta.

Things could still change on the features that go into Silverlight for mobile, given this is a pre-beta, and especially given the thinking last October was different.

Microsoft, though, is under twin pressures. First, its own: to deliver a player that isn't fragmented, lets developers use the same tools and techniques, and lets users work with Silverlight, exactly the same on mobile and desktop. Even slightly different players would not allow this to happen.

The other pressure would be coming from demanding phone, service, and software companies. Lumpen experience is not tolerated in this consumer-facing world, where the price to entry is a system that's pretty much invisible. It must reliably serve up video and data to a broad audience.

In a world where handset manufactures and service providers have struggled to find a decent alternative to Apple and the iPhone, Microsoft and Silverlight could be their hope. ®

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