silverlight-logoMicrosoft has launched the next wave in its battle to provide the dominant platform for web media and applications with the release of its Silverlight 3 platform, and of Expression 3, its tool for building web applications.

Silverlight 3 actually became available for download yesterday, but today is the official push. The company says Silverlight has now been downloaded onto one in three computers, up from one in four computers when Silverlight 2 was released late last year. When I spoke to Vice President of Developer and Platform Evangelism Walid Abu-Hadba last night, he predicted that Silverlight will be installed in one out of every two computers by this time next year. That’s still much lower than the most recent numbers I’ve seen about Adobe’s more established Flash platform, but it’s impressive since Silverlight has only been available for about two years.

Also impressive is the relatively fast release cycle. Microsoft often waits years before releasing new versions of its products, but Silverlight 3 is coming out less than a year after Silverlight 2. The new Silverlight 3 and Expression 3 features highlighted by Microsoft include: Expression Sketchflow to quickly build protoypes of web apps, the ability to access Silverlight apps outside your web browser, and “smooth streaming” for efficient streaming of high-definition video (demo here).

You can read more details of my conversation with Abu-Hadba here; the comments most relevant for the Silverlight launch are his take on Microsoft’s strengths versus Adobe’s. Abu-Hadba argued that Microsoft’s strength has always been in the developer community, while Adobe is more designer-centric — and as the two companies’ web platforms go head-to-head, that developer base will be a crucial advantage.

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