Microsoft just made available for download the gold version of Silverlight 5, the latest version of its browser plug-in and Web, desktop and mobile development platform.
New features in Silverlight 5 include Hardware Decode of H.264 media, which provides a significant performance improvement with decoding of unprotected content using the GPU; Postscript Vector Printing to improve output quality and file size; and an improved graphics stack with 3D support that uses the XNA API on the Windows platform to gain low-level access to the GPU for drawing vertex shaders and low-level 3D primitives.
Among the full list of improvements are hardware decoding of H.264 unprotected content using the GPU, support for 64-bit browsers and a rewritten graphics stack using built-in XNA Games Studio 4.0 graphics libraries for vertex shading and basic 3D. New sound effects and a variable video replay rate have also been added.
It has been rumored that this could be the last and final version of Silverlight.
From what Mary Jo Foley has dug up, Silverlight 5 could very well be the final numbered edition of Silverlight. Whether it will receive Service Packs or not is unknown. The length of official Microsoft support for the product is also not known at this moment.
One tech consultant with roots in the Microsoft world said the XAML/Silverlight lines are blurring.
“It’s pretty clear to me that the principles of Silverlight, including the use of XAML as a markup language, C# and VB .NET as programming languages, a streamlined .NET CLR (Common Language Runtime) profile, packaged deployment over HTTP and a sandboxed security environment, are alive and well in the native XAML/.NET approach to developing Metro-style apps on Windows 8. It may not be not Silverlight to the letter, but it’s Silverlight in spirit and natively supported by the operating system to boot,” said Andrew Brust, a Microsoft Regional Director and founder of Blue Badge Insights.