Microsoft sneaks out Silverlight 5

Microsoft has quietly released the latest major version of Silverlight. In a blog post, the company calls it “part of a rich offering of technologies from Microsoft helping developers deliver applications for the web, desktop and mobile devices” and notes that the plug-in is under 7MB in size.

New features in version 5 largely centre around improved performance, including “Hardware Decode of H.264 media, which provides a significant performance improvement with decoding of unprotected content using the GPU”. The new plug-in also extends the ‘Trusted Application’ model to the browser, which, according to Microsoft’s press release, means “users won’t need to leave the browser to perform complex tasks such as multiple window support, full trust support in browser including COM and file system access, in browser HTML hosting within Silverlight, and P/Invoke support for existing native code to be run directly from Silverlight”.

Silverlight has gained some traction recently, not least through LoveFilm using the technology in place of Flash as of 2012. The decision was arrived at due to the demands of content suppliers, although LoveFilm also praised Silverlight’s capabilities regarding buffering and streaming.

However, it remains to be seen whether Silverlight will have any impact beyond niche use in video, and even then whether this is just a stop-gap until HTML5 and DRM become best buddies. As it is, The Verge speculates that this will be the final version of Silverlight: Microsoft intends to support it for ten years, but it won’t be available outside of desktop machines, and the company’s increasingly throwing its weight behind HTML5 and web-standards, even directing developers to use related frameworks for mobile app development.

Do you use Silverlight? Do you think the technology has a future? Let us know in the comments.