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Microsoft targets Barmy Army with Silverlight

Broad front, not deep pockets

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Microsoft was embarrassed when Major League Baseball dumped Silverlight, the company's fledging browser-based media player it had signed onto in less than a year.

It was the second blow to Silverlight. NBC - who'd used Silverlight to stream its Olympics coverage - picked Adobe Systems' Flash for its online NFL coverage last autumn rather than Silverlight.

Microsoft's trying to prove Silverlight is ready for business. And a component of that involves winning and keeping big names in the camp against Flash and AIR from Adobe.

Having lost MLB and NBC's football in the US, Microsoft has now flagged up its latest win for Silverlight: cricket on the subcontinent.

Silverlight will be used to broadcast more than 500 hours of live and on-demand video content from the official website of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The site - IPLT20.com - last year recorded 50.2 million page views, 10 million visits, and five million unique visitors during the course of the six-week season, Microsoft has said.

The goal this season is for 400 million page views, 45 million visits, and 10 million unique visitors. To provide some context, NBC's Olympics coverage on Silverlight pulled in 1.3 billion page views and saw 52.1 million unique visitors.

There's still much to play for in the rich-internet applications market, and Microsoft's still in the race. NBC has said it will use Silverlight to stream next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Early technical problems with Silverlight that saw MLB dump the player may have been solved in its latest edition, Silverlight 3, and Microsoft may have the Winter Olympics, but there's one big problem Microsoft and Silverlight must still overcome: the ubiquity of Flash. Organizations building and selling content will continue to target what's already out there rather than take a chance helping push a new platform.

It's one thing for Microsoft's executives to sign big deals with flagship customers, but there's a gap between this world and the real world of what customers' end users and consumers are using.

Microsoft's done a great deal of work to make it easier to download Silverlight, but download you still must. And much of the content that uses Silverlight still only comes from Microsoft.

Uptake of Silverlight as a medium for building and streaming content is going to rely on more than flagship customers. It's going take slow-and-steady permeation of the player during the next few years on a broad front, rather than pockets of success. ®

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