Scott Guthrie just published a comprehensive post detailing Microsoft’s .NET web products roadmap.
To sum up the release schedule:

  • .NET Framework Source Code - No date specified in the post but should be any time now.
  • ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions – Preview version will be available next week
  • Silverlight 2.0 – Public beta on Q1 2008 (With Go-Live licence)
  • IIS 7 – Will be part of the Windows 2008 release. The official launch is at February 27th 2008 so it’ll probably RTM before that.

I’m extremely happy to see Silverlight maturing as a web development platform with its 2.0 version that includes:

  • WPF UI Framework: The current Silverlight Alpha release only includes basic controls support and a managed API for UI drawing.  The next public Silverlight preview will add support for the higher level features of the WPF UI framework.  These include: the extensible control framework model, layout manager support, two-way data-binding support, and control template and skinning support.  The WPF UI Framework features in Silverlight will be a compatible subset of the WPF UI Framework features in last week’s .NET Framework 3.5 release.
  • Rich Controls: Silverlight will deliver a rich set of controls that make building Rich Internet Applications much easier.  The next Silverlight preview release will add support for core form controls (textbox, checkbox, radiobutton, etc), built-in layout management controls (StackPanel, Grid, etc), common functionality controls (TabControl, Slider, ScrollViewer, ProgressBar, etc) and data manipulation controls (DataGrid, etc).
  • Rich Networking Support: Silverlight will deliver rich networking support.  The next Silverlight preview release will add support for REST, POX, RSS, and WS* communication.  It will also add support for cross domain network access (so that Silverlight clients can access resources and data from any trusted source on the web).
  • Rich Base Class Library Support: Silverlight will include a rich .NET base class library of functionality (collections, IO, generics, threading, globalization, XML, local storage, etc).  The next Silverlight preview release will also add built-in support for LINQ to XML and richer HTML DOM API integration.

When evaluating Silverlight (1.0 and 1.1) a few month ago I came to a conclusion that its not mature enough for us to use it for building business UIs. Having support for only vector graphic shapes meant that any control had to be built manually which means we would have had to manually build a lot of controls ourselves.

With the new support for WPF UI Framework and Rich Controls it now seems more robust for building LOB applications.

Some ideas regarding Silverlight in LOB apps:

  1. Embed Silverlight in InfoPath. InfoPath forms only support a limited set of controls and since its driven by IE it could be extended by embedding ActiveX controls. If you want rich graphics, animations, graphs, etc. as part of your form you have to embed some sort of an ActiveX.
    Of course, you can always develop you’re own ActiveX and embed a WinForm or WPF inside InfoPath but why go through all that work when Microsoft already implemented Silverlight ActivX for you?
  2. Outlook folder Homepage. Folder homepages in Outlook are htmls. To display rich UI in that view the only (hacky) way (presented by Microsoft as part pf project Elixir on MSDN) is to embed an ActiveX in that html and have it connect with an Outlook addin via .NET remoting. Silverlight can be used to save the work and effort on developing (and deploying) your own ActiveX.

I guess we’ll have to re-evaluate Silverlight when the 2.0 beta comes out…

On other notes, I’m at Redmond right now attending the Silverlight 1.0 Firestarter event which should be interesting…

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