Microsoft takes on Adobe with Silverlight 3

Redmond, WA –In a challenge to Adobe Flash, Microsoft has released its new web multimedia player Silverlight 3, a browser plug-in enabling audio, vector graphics and animation.

The company says it allows streaming of high-definition video in full screen with stutter-free live and on-demand video.

It supports Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8, Firefox 2 and 3 and Safari 3 and 4 browsers – but not Opera or Chrome.

There are a number of improvements over the previous version, including Smooth Screening, which automatically provides the best quality video possible for the network and local PC connections – allowing instant playback of HD video for those with a high-badwidth connection and powerful hardware. It allows streaming of 720p HD content over the web with the ability to pause and rewind a live stream.

It features GPU hardware acceleration and support for H.264, AAC and MPEG-4, along with 3D support. New APIs allow developers to plug in their own codecs.

An out-of-the-browser capability similar to Adobe’s AIR allows users to place their favorite Silverlight applications directly onto any PC or Mac desktop, start menu or application folder, without the need to download an additional runtime or browser plug-in. Applications work whether the computer is connected to the Internet or not.

Silverlight 3 is available here. The formal launch is today.