Dunedin-based multimedia company Taylormade Media is in the midst of building the next version of the-hub.tv, an online entertainment space for kids, but the project will become an early testing ground for new internet development tools.
Taylormade’s six developers use Flash for much of their work, says Ian Taylor, the company’s founder and CEO, but for the next version of the website they will also be testing Silverlight — Microsoft’s platform for building rich internet applications.
The-hub.tv is a video streaming site featuring music, films, fashion, sport and technology. It also has online games and competitions. The site, aimed at children and young adults, appears live on TV2’s Studio 2, so content such as text, pictures or video posted by users could be shown on TV.
“Over the next couple of months we will…[be] testing Flash and Silverlight head to head to determine what best serves our goals,” says Taylor. “At this stage it is still too early to say how they stack up against each other, but that’s what is exciting about this involvement we have with Silverlight. It’s a chance to be in on the ground.”
The team aims to work through the strengths and weaknesses of the different platforms, says Taylor.
“But what is obvious with Silverlight from the outset is that it is being designed as a new generation platform which is aimed at incorporating in one package things that you normally have to look for over a range of packages,” he says.
Taylormade Media was attracted to Silverlight because it offers a merging of technologies and delivery platforms, Taylor says.
“We are still in the early stages and we are learning a lot about the capabilities of Silverlight,” he says. The idea that people will want to have more control of what they watch [and] when they watch it, and that, increasingly, people, especially kids, will want to find ways to be directly involved in the experience — that is the philosophy behind the-hub.tv. Silverlight matches that [philosophy] and promises to provide us with tools that will make that easier,” he says.
An added benefit is the ability to interact directly with the developers at Microsoft, says Taylor.
Taylormade Media has been accepted into Microsoft’s global Technology Adoption Programme (TAP) for Silverlight, he says. Earlier this year, one of the company’s developers was invited to Redmond to learn more about the platform. The developer reported back to New Zealand on how Silverlight might fit with some of the online projects Taylormade was working on, Taylor says.
“At the same time we had launched the-hub.tv and it became obvious very quickly that this was a great vehicle to start working with Silverlight on. It was up and running, it is being used by kids, it is reliant on interactivity and it is part of a live daily TV show. It is a great place to start testing Silverlight and once we start incorporating it into the hub we will have real-time feedback from a pretty discerning audience,” he says.
Being part of the TAP programme is important for Taylormade, says Taylor. At the time of the Computerworld interview, Taylor was in Valencia for the Louis Vuitton Cup.
“While here in Valencia I have already made contact with other TAP partners who we will be sharing information with as we move forward. It brings us a global scale which is pretty special,” he says.
Any migration will be a gradual one, says Taylor.
“We still have to deliver the hub as part of an ongoing television programme so we will pick off sections that are best suited for migrating to Silverlight and look at what new things Silverlight offers that we can start introducing,” he says.