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Category Archives: Microsoft Tools

Microsoft Silverlight logoWe’ve just announced a public preview of a publishing plug-in that allows Expression Encoder to encode and publish Silverlight content directly to the Silverlight Streaming service.

You can download the plug-in directly from the Microsoft download section.

To recap, Silverlight Streaming is a content hosting service that has been launched by the Windows Live team (currently in Alpha). As part of the Alpha service you get 4GB of FREE storage which allows you to host Silverlight Applications including videos and unlimited streaming.

There are a couple of limitations on the videos that you can use during the alpha phase, the video can be up to 10 minutes in length and encoded at up to 700Kbps. When the service moves towards release and leaves beta you’ll still have 4GB worth of FREE storage and up to 1 million minutes of FREE streaming. Unlimited streaming will also be available for FREE with advertising, or with payment of a nominal fee for the service for use without advertising.

So what do you need:

Expression Media Encoder (Please note this now comes with a 180 day trial key!)

Silverlight Streaming Account

Silverlight Streaming Plug-in Preview (for Expression Media Encoder)

There’s also a plug-in for Windows Live Writer available here, (thanks to James Clarke for making it happen) that allows you to insert Silverlight Streaming applications directly into your blog.

This service will definitely be one to watch over the coming months.


Expression Design receives it’s first service pack you can read the full detail on the Expression Design blog but in brief… much better XAML exporting for Silverlight 1.0.

You can download the Service pack from either the Expression Web site or from MSDN.

 Silverlight-enabled search with Tafiti




Tafiti is a new showcase of how we can now mix a rich web experience with search functionality.

You can view search results in a number of ways: tree view, newspaper view or drop-down results on a glass pane.  You can also switch between search mediums and save search results.

Betanews discusses the news and explains that the name means “to search” in Swahili.

Take a look at this new concept on search and a great example of Silverlight’s capabilities.


Web Experience Stack DVD

The DVD includes trial versions of:

· Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition, SP2

· Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 and .NET Framework 3.0

· Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition, SP2

· Microsoft Visual Studio Professional

· Microsoft Expression Studio (includes Microsoft Expression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Design, and Expression Media)

You can order the DVD here.


Silverlight moved a step closer to release today as it moves to a Release Candidate version. Silverlight 1.1 Alpha has also received a refresh at the same time to keep both versions running off the same code base.

There’s no need to uninstall you old version just simply installer the RC1 and it will update the required files.

Please also note that this release is NOT 100% compatible with the Beta or Alpha versions that you have been using up to now – particularly the object activation model has been altered. But this is the last time we’ll break things! And moving forward there will be seamless transitions from one version to another.

Here’s the runtime itself:

Some tools for building Silverlight applications:

There is new content on the Microsoft WW Partner Portal to provide info about the resources available to our Web Partners.  Of course this content has been built in Silverlight and it address the web for different audience types – IT Generalists, Custom Development Companies and Agencies.  

Take a look at this.

We have also produced a DVD – the “Microsoft Web Experience Stack”.  This is a DVD with a VPC image of Windows Server  2003 R2, .NET Framework 2.0 and 3.0, SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio Professional, Expression Suite (Web, Blend, Design, Media).  Partners can order this DVD from here where you will also find webinars, case studies, and white papers.

Trying to navigate round Microsoft?  Trying to find out the latest info on a particular product?  This new tool could help.

Partner Bot is an Instant Messenger ‘data digger’, which quickly retrieves partner-related information and shows you where you can find the answers you need. Simply type in your question and Bot will bring back an instant response. Add Bot as a buddy in your Windows Live Messenger contacts and it will always be available whenever you’re logged in. Whether you’re looking for support options, searching for competitive information or want to learn more about products, you can ask Partner Bot and it will point you in the right direction.

(Please be aware that Bot may guide you to areas of the Partner Portal which can only be accessed by Registered, Certified or Gold Partners, so you may need to sign-in to view this information.)

How Do I Add Partner Bot to My Contacts?

· Log-in to Windows Live Messenger

· Click on ‘Add a Contact’ icon

· Add into Instant Messaging Address


We’ve just completed some research with the web and digital agencies that Microsoft is working with in the UK – the headline news from the report is that 73% of participants believe that 2007 will see a significant increase in client demand for Rich Interactive Applications or RIAs.

In fact, from the responses provided, participants expected RIA to be the most significant new type of client offering this year. This is a great news – after what seems a long time coming there are now a number factors which indicate that 2007 will be the year of the RIA:

  • web and digital agencies are seeing increased client awareness about the need to differentiate through user experience
  • broad consumer and business audience awareness as to what constitutes a good computing experience is increasing as users are exposed to Vista and Office 2007  
  • a choice of application form-factors (or delivery mechanisms) now exist – browser, gadget, lightweight desktop, full desktop – one or more of which can be leveraged based upon the identified user requirements 
  • there is a choice of tools, technologies and runtimes from Microsoft, Adobe and others which designers and developers can leverage to deliver upon the promise of RIA

From a Microsoft perspective, some parts of the RIA picture are well defined now (WPF, Vista Gadgets), some are nearing completion (e.g. Expression Blend) and others (WPF/E included) are currently a work in progress – throughout this year though all the parts will come together to provide a comprehensive platform for delivering Rich Interactive Applications.

Whilst on this topic, one thing to note here is my use of the word Interactive, in the term RIA. There’s been some discussion over on Ryan Stewart’s blog about whether the often-used Rich Internet Application still conveys the right message. Ryan notes “The term does seem kind of odd in today’s world. Are there really any applications that aren’t connected to the internet? The term Rich Internet Application was coined way back in March of 2002, long before broadband was a realistic possibility for many people and before the web had really transformed everything.”

Microsoft, Ovum and others are referring to RIA to mean Rich Interactive, rather than Internet, Applications – the change representing a subtle, but important, difference which highlights the impact that interaction has on the usability, productivity, effectiveness, flexibility and relevance of an application. In addition, by removing specific reference to the internet, it recognises that the internet is now a fundamental part of today’s applications.

Bola Rotibi from Ovum defines Rich Interactive Applications as “applications that combine the light touch and ubiquity of a web application with the interactivity and functionality of a desktop application, and offer a consistent and effective user experience, both online and offline across a variety of devices and networks.” The report is definately worth a read – if you haven’t got an Ovum subscription you can purchase it here.

I’d be interested in your comments on the term RIA, what it means to you and whether you’re also expecting to see increased demand for RIAs this year.

We’re going to share the full report and analysis with those who participated in the research in a couple of weeks time at an event we’re running for web and digital agencies. If you’d like to receive a copy of the report in due course please contact me

Posted by: Andrew Shorten

Jon recently posted an entry about Expression Web and Expression Blend being included within MSDN Premium subscription. If you work in an agency which is new to Microsoft’s tools you might be wondering what an MSDN subscription gets you… so here is a quick quide.

In a nutshell, Visual Studio Professional and MSDN Premium subcriptions provide pretty much unlimited access to the latest Microsoft software development tools and server products.

Aimed at developers, an MSDN Premium subscription provides you with a version of Visual Studio 2005 (including software assurance for future versions during the subscription period), together with Expression Web and Expression Blend. It also includes development and test licenses for Microsoft’s desktop and server Operating Systems (Including Vista and the next release of Windows Server ‘Longhorn’), the Microsoft Office System, most Microsoft servers (including SQL Server, Sharepoint, Dynamics, etc) as well as 4 technical support incidents and access to the MSDN Library documentation.

A comparison of the different versions are available on the MSDN website. Visual Studio Professional with MSDN Premium would be a good place to start, with the UK price at around £1700* per developer. There is a host of different licensing options available and if you’re likely to need 5 or more you should check out which is most suitable for your organisation

For designers, we’ve announced that Expression Studio will ship in the 2nd quarter of 2007 and will also include Visual Studio 2005; the UK price for Expression Studio will be around £400*, with Expression Blend, Web and Media also available as seperate products.

* Note: please check with resellers for exact pricing.

Posted by: Andrew Shorten

New builds of Expression Blend (now Release Candidate) and Expression Design (now Beta 2) were posted last week on the Microsoft website.

Blend in particular contains a brand new set of sample projects that will really help with learning the product. If you have yet to download these new tools from Microsoft now would be a great time to get started – both are available as a 180-day trial 🙂

Download Expression Blend

Download Expression Design

Posted by: Andrew Shorten