Microsoft Demos New Silverlight Capabilities
Microsoft wants Silverlight to be a rich interactive application environment
you can bank on -- literally.
The software giant demonstrated for the first time an application based on
its Silverlight RIA platform that portends how banks might bring their online
banking sites into the Web 2.0 era.
Joseph Cleaver, platform strategy advisor for Microsoft's financial services
business, gave the Silverlight demo at the Web Services/SOA on Wall Street Conference
on Feb. 11 in New York.
The demonstrations use the graphical model of Tafiti,
Microsoft's experimental search interface. Tafiti, described as "search
visualization," renders results through visual icons (newspaper, phonebook,
feeds, Web and images) that rotate on what looks like a dish or half-sphere.
The demos showed how consumers and bank employees alike might access information
within the context of banking transactions.
Cleaver described it as a 360-degree view, which allows individuals to customize
how data is presented, using visual cues to represent certain operations --
for example, using video pop-ups. "There's different ways to present data,"
he said during the demonstration. "It's a really nice way to navigate."
In a separate demo showing how a company might deploy 401(k) self-service applications,
a video pop-up gave a tutorial on various investment options. It wasn't all
just pretty pictures, though. Cleaver showed how a customer or bank employee
may perform calculations, such as the implications of trying to make larger
mortgage payments or dragging away information that the user doesn't want to
Investing in RIA
One of the two banking demos also included some code based on Silverlight 2.0,
which is now available to a small number of testers and is expected to drop
around next month's MIX08 conference in Las Vegas.
Silverlight 2.0 is the new name to what was until recently known as Silverlight
1.1. It adds support for a subset of .NET including scaled-down versions of
the Common Language Runtime, Base Class Libraries, Language Integrated Query
and Windows Presentation Foundation.
The banking and 401k demos were aimed at showing banks and investment firms
how they can target Gen Y customers, who Cleaver says have come to expect richer
user interfaces with streaming media.
"It's really more about having retail brokerages and banks think about
what the experience could be as they look to revamp their online channels, especially
around the user experience," Cleaver said in an interview. "There
are some different things that you could do to create a really rich user interaction
and different technologies that you could use to help create that."
In the session, Cleaver said Silverlight should be easy for any .NET developers
to embrace, regardless of their experience using the RIA technology. "That's
the beauty of .NET," he said. "It's familiar tools, familiar language
-- [and] the ramp-up time is really light." Cleaver also touted Silverlight's
support for multiple languages, browsers and platforms.
Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.