Microsoft clicks brights on Silverlight

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NEW YORK -- Microsoft officially launched its Silverlight video player on Wednesday with a host of partners already in place, including CBS, which will use the technology on a site dedicated to its Emmy Awards broadcast on Sept. 16.

The free downloadable plug-in, which can present videos in high definition on a computer screen, was first announced in April at the National Association of Broadcasters conference. Since then, Microsoft has had several trial runs and previews as it has prepared to fully launch the new video format, which is compatible with Macs and PCs.

In connection with the Emmys, Silverlight will be used on a micro-site hosted on "ET's" Web site starting Wednesday. Users will be able to watch interviews, red carpet coverage, make video mash-ups and stream the "ET" after-party.

"The technology is incredible," said Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of "ET." "We're always looking for ways to move our content forward."

ET will be using Silverlight in the coming months for more micro-sites including one for holiday movies, its year-end review and other award shows.

In addition to the CBS partnership, Microsoft's MSN is using Silverlight in its Election Central offering, as will HSN and World Wrestling Entertainment.

Major League Baseball has also been using Silverlight since July for highlights on its site and it is working towards using it to broadcast live games on MLB.TV.

"Ours is a strategy of letting content drive adoption," said Sean Alexander, Microsoft's director of Silverlight. Microsoft.com will also be switching over to Silverlight technology, too.

In addition to the high video quality and the mash-up feature, the player can also be customized for different types of advertisements, including a ticker and an overlay on the bottom third of a screen, similar to YouTube's recently announced ad model. Silverlight is also compatible with Windows Media players, meaning that millions of hours of content can be switched over to Silverlight once the player is downloaded.

One downside, though, could be the fact that the player has to be downloaded. Many computers come installed with Windows Media Player, and sites like YouTube, which use Adobe Flash technology, only require that a user log on to the page with a computer purchased in the last few years.

"We think the benefits of the technology will outlay the 10-second download," said Alexander. "From that perspective, that's a very low bar."
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