Ecosystem for Expression, Silverlight emerging

The recent Mix07 conference was dominated by the Silverlight launch, but there was much else there of interest

The recent Mix 07 conference was the launching pad for more than just Microsoft’s Expression and Silverlight products. Independent software vendors also demonstrated upcoming products that work within the same Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) graphical sub-system as Expression and Silverlight.

Colorado-based Electric Rain released Harmony, which it claims is the first software to convert applications built in Adobe’s Flash to the XAML code used by Expression and Silverlight. It also showed off beta software called StandOut Presentation Solution, which CEO Mike Soucie says is similar to Microsoft’s popular PowerPoint software.

But PowerPoint remains stuck in a slide-based paradigm and requires “a lot of finessing” for designers wanting to add audio or video elements, says Soucie. By contrast, StandOut lets them create true multimedia presentations that approach television broadcast quality.

Another way designers create slick presentations today is using Flash. But according to Ken Martin, CEO of Blitz, a Beverly Hills interactive advertising agency, Flash is less seamlessly integrated with other design tools compared with StandOut’s integration with Expression via the common XAML code underlying all elements and projects.

Flash presentations are also more difficult to break down into component elements and recycle, says Martin. That means all projects are “one-offs” that “need to be created from scratch almost every time,” forcing agencies like Blitz to charge more money for Flash-based presentations.

Finally, Flash presentations can’t be easily edited by a non-designer, Martin says. An executive who needs to change his or her presentation in a hotel room the night before a speech is stuck, says Martin. By contrast, the StandOut software will eventually come in both professional and personal editions. The latter will let presenters easily change their presentations at the last moment.

Blitz has already created a sample presentation for Starbucks, which is available online.

StandOut will run on Windows PCs only. It will cost about US$500 (NZ$680) for a professional designer edition and between US$300 to US$400 for the personal edition, Soucie says. Electric Rain hopes to release StandOut by September.

Files created by StandOut, even those using high-definition video, are not as large as one might expect. The four-minute Starbucks presentation is about 20MB, according to Martin.

Although StandOut has its own file format, presentations will eventually be exportable to .exe format and to Silverlight, Soucie says.

Another company, Washington State-based IdentityMine, released a community technology preview of a designer tool kit called Blendables Essentials, which plugs into Microsoft Expression Blend.

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Tags silverlightDevelopment IDecosystemexpression

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