Microsoft has announced the release of Silverlight 5 and it looks like a worthwhile update. The only shadow hanging over the new version is that it is still unclear if this is the last of its line.
Microsoft has taken the opportunity to clarify the lifecycle policy for Silverlight and now it states that at least 12 months notice will be given of end of support for Silverlight.
Silverlight is a browser plugin and we all know how well these are faring at the moment. With Flash bowing out in favor of the HTML5 juggernaut, it doesn't seem surprising that Silverlight should suffer the same fate. Microsoft wont say what the future holds, but given it has strongly suggested that WinRT is the way forward, things still don't look so good for Silverlight. This is a shame because Silverlight represents a remarkable piece of technology and one that Microsoft will eventually regret ditching at such an early stage. Put simply, Silverlight gives you Windows in a browser and this is in many ways the most obvious future role for Windows, if it has one at all.
Silverlight 5's new features are no great surprise given the extensive beta program. The two key improvements are an H.264 decoder and a trusted application mode for in-browser applications. There are also major improvements to the graphics facilities with the XNA API being used to provide 3D and GPU acceleration.
The trusted application mode allows an app to be downloaded into the browser which then asks the user for access to system resources that normally would be out of bounds for downloaded software. This allows Silverlight in-browser applications to be the equal of any desktop application and provides Silverlight with a huge advantage over the completely sandboxed WinRT apps. You can start multiple top-level windows, have full access to the file system and make use of P/invoke to access any system API.
You can download Silverlight 5 and the Silverlight 5 SDK for Visual Studio from the Microsoft download site.
Silverlight blog announcement
Download Silverlight 5
Silverlight 5 Tools for Visual Studio® 2010 SP1