Holy mother of all video codecs, Batman! Microsoft announces Silverlight 3 will support h.264. It’s been a pretty good week for Microsoft on the hearts and minds front. First they role out Seinfeld as a pitchman (you had me at Shoe Circus Jerry). The ad was subtle, avoided the obvious Apple references, was utterly devoid of all normal hyperbole evident in recent campaigns (Surface “revolutionizes” the $10K multi-touch coffee table market), and most importantly no obnoxious “aero” translucency was anywhere to be seen (is it just me or is Aero the equivalent of clear plastic pumps).
However, it was the news that Silverlight 3 will support h.264 video and AAC audio that has me ready to sing Kumbaya, kiss the girls in Redmond or become an English soccer hooligan (lots of drinking and a sport I don’t have to pay much attention to…seems grand to me). Now in typical MS fashion they can’t seem to get out of their own way and appear to be pulling a Zoolander and taking credit for the codec’s development.
Self-aggrandizement aside, this is an absolutely huge move by Microsoft and one they should be lauded for. Sure they didn’t get there first (they actually won’t be there for quite some time) and the Flash Player team’s aggressive moves forced their hand, but the end result helps content creators and the industry as a whole out. It’s a move away from vendor lock-in and toward customer empowerment. Microsoft has big plans for Silverlight. They want it to be embedded on a lot of platforms (mobile handsets, consumer electronics, etc.). They don’t have a dominant market position which means they need to leverage existing and future content repositories. It’s a hell of a lot easier to sell customers on RIA platform than it is to sell them on RIA platform + video format, especially when changing video format means re-encoding a large library. Well done Microsoft. Way to connect the dots and make customer needs come first.