Although Microsoft's Silverlight was originally conceived as a competitor to Adobe Flash, it now finds itself competing with Abobe's Web 2.0 platform, Adobe Air.
The harsh truth is, Microsoft Silverlight has already fallen considerably behind Adobe Air. In typically Microsoft style, the software giant's surely missed the boat, by aiming at a replacement for Adobe Flash when the web world was already shifting towards interactive Web 2.0 platforms such as Adobe Air.
Microsoft Silverlight is a lightweight plugin that allows you to watch Silverlight-based content in your browser. It works with most major browsers, including Firefox and Safari. There is no prompt to restart the browser after installation but I recommend you do so because the first site of Silverlight content I accessed after installation simply crashed the browser.
The most important improvements to the latest version are smoother streaming, DRM management, and an out-of browser player. The out-of browser player, however, is dependent on developers embracing it and as yet, there are few examples available. The smooth streaming feature will iron out many of the streaming programs that have plagued Microsoft Silverlight in the past. If your bandwidth drops below 3Mbps, smooth streaming will kick-in so that your video isn't affected.
Microsoft Silverlight can stream high resolution video well and supports HD-quality videos. If you want to create content for Silverlight, you'll need Expression Studio and Visual Studio. In fact, this latest release is is of particular interest to developers because it adds 60 customizable controls, new layout containers, 'deep linking' for page bookmarking, search engine optimization, and enhanced data support.
The signs are though that Microsoft has realized that the battle for web content is already being won by the much slicker and more stable Adobe Air platform and is therefore aiming Microsoft Silverlight at business users. The Silverlight homepage boasts 'Learn how Silverlight is right for your business', and that companies such as Continental Airlines have adopted Silverlight for use in their reservation system, showing that Microsoft knows which side its bread is buttered on.
Silverlight has probably missed the boat as far as Web 2.0 goes, although there's probably no way you can avoid it since there will always be some websites that opt to stream content with Silverlight rather than Flash.