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By Leena Rao

Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) competitor to Adobe Flash, Silverlight, has officially rolled out the new version, Silverlight 3, Thursday. Silverlight is a cross-browser, cross-platform, and cross-device plug-in for delivering media experiences and interactive applications for the Web. The first version was launched in 2007 and the second version was launched in September of 2008. In April, Microsoft reported 300 million downloads of Silverlight between September 2007 and April 2009, with an estimated 300,000 developers and engineers working off the Silverlight platform.

SIiverlight 3 launched a day earlier Thursday on Microsoft’s servers, surprising the blogosphere. The new version has improved streaming capabilities, called Smooth Streaming. Here’s what Microsoft said about the new streaming function:

If the Internet bandwidth and video rendering capability on your playback device are sufficiently high, you’ll experience high-definition video playback of the sample content. You will also be able to simulate end user experiences under varying conditions by simulating drops and recoveries in bandwidth. If your actual bandwidth is below 3 Mbps, or your playback device is video-challenged, then you will experience the adaptive nature of Smooth Streaming without needing to simulate a bandwidth cap.

Microsoft is also extending Silverlight’s technologies beyond the browser by allowing developers to design and create apps that can run on the desktop. Microsoft will be announcing further details about Silverlight at its official launch of Silverlight 3 and Expression Studio 3 tomorrow morning. We’ll have all the details. And Microsoft will also be demoing some of the real-time capabilities of Silverlight 3 at TechCrunch’s Real-Time Stream CrunchUp Friday.

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Source: Microsoft: Surprise Launch of Silverlight 3