Microsoft teams with Nokia to put Silverlight on devices

In its quest to make its Silverlight technology as ubiquitous as its competitor Flash, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is moving full speed ahead to promote adoption of the technology through some strategic moves and partnerships it will highlight at its annual MIX 08 conference, including a deal with Nokia to put the technology on mobile devices.

Through a deal it will reveal Tuesday, Microsoft is working with mobile handset provider Nokia to put Silverlight on wireless devices for the first time, said Tom Honeybone, senior director in Microsoft’s developer division. Silverlight is a cross-platform plug-in that lets developers create multimedia and rich Internet applications (RIAs) and then run them from the browser.

At MIX, Nokia plans to reveal a beta program for its runtime for Silverlight on its Series 60 and Series 40 handsets, as well as demonstrate Silverlight applications running on the handsets, he said. By the end of the year, Nokia plans to ship handsets with the runtime embedded that can run Silverlight applications, beginning first with the high-end Series 60 smartphones, Honeybone said. Silverlight on Series 40 phones and on Nokia’s tablet devices will be available thereafter.

Microsoft eventually plans to include a runtime for Silverlight in its Windows Mobile platform, but it chose Nokia as the first company to bring Silverlight to handsets because of that company’s prominent position in the mobile handset market, Honeybone said.

“Series 60 is the clear leader, ” he said.

Nokia is not currently one of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile handset partners, though there have been rumors that the company eventually will sign on to build Windows Mobile devices alongside competitors such as Sony Ericsson and HTC.

Microsoft will be developing a portability kit so Nokia can port Silverlight from the desktop to its mobile platform; that kit eventually will be available to other handset providers as well, Honeybone said.

Microsoft released Silverlight 1.0 in September 2007 as a plug-in for browsers that could work on Windows, Linux and the Mac platform. Microsoft developed the technology to displace Adobe’s Flash, which currently has about 97 percent to 99 percent penetration on the Web as a technology for delivering multimedia content and RIAs.

Flash also is available on wireless devices as Flash Lite; the technology is available on more than 450 million phones, according to Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE).

Microsoft recently renamed its forthcoming 1.1 version to Silverlight 2, saying it’s more stable and fully baked than merely an incremental release. The company has said Silverlight 2 will be available in beta form in the first quarter of the year. It’s not unlikely that release will be made available this week at MIX, though Microsoft has not said this and would not comment Monday.

As Microsoft prepares to make Silverlight more ubiquitous, the company is using its own reach on the Web to promote its use. The company has been using Silverlight on some of its own Web sites, confirmed Brian Goldfarb, group product manager, developer platform, at Microsoft.

Silverlight is not a required download to view the sites and users can opt out when prompted to download Silverlight, “but they will miss out on some great rich media content,” he said.

Microsoft also has been using Silverlight as the delivery mechanism for some company-generated video, and its use was indeed required in at least one of those instances. Last week, a participant had to download Silverlight to view CEO Steve Ballmer’s keynote Webcast live from the Microsoft’s Windows Server launch event in Los Angeles.

Goldfarb said Microsoft will continue to use Silverlight more and more as part of its Web content delivery strategy, including Webcasts and other video presentations on the Web.

Microsoft also is leveraging partners to promote Silverlight adoption. One of the first partners to develop on Silverlight and use it as a delivery mechanism,, now requires the use of Silverlight for baseball enthusiasts to view games, audio and video. And at MIX, AOL is expected to demonstrate a free Web mail product built on Silverlight 2, according to AOL.

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