Major League Baseball Switches From Silverlight to Flash

Microsoft will no longer play under the bright lights of Major League Baseball, which has decided to throw out the vendor's Silverlight browser add-on in favor of Adobe's Flash.

Major League Baseball's MLB.com Web site had been a marquee account for Microsoft, which shipped the 2.0 version of Silverlight last month and is planning the 3.0 version for delivery next year. MLB.com was a featured presenter at Microsoft's MIX conference in April 2007.

Adobe made the announcement of the two-year deal with MLB at its annual Adobe Max conference in San Francisco.

Bob Bowman, MLB advanced media CEO, said "We are excited about this partnership as Adobe provides the scalability, flexibility and reliability that fans expect from MLB.com in delivering them the best live streaming product possible."

Last year, Bowman was quoted in Microsoft's press release as saying: "We're excited about the possibilities presented by this new technology and look forward to continued developments from Microsoft that will help to enable the next generation of how we deliver our content to fans."

Perhaps Bowman never recovered from multi-day video problems that plagued MLB.com's online broadcasting at the opening of the 2008 season in April that had fans fuming.

Along with the MLB.com deal, Adobe also introduced its own developments, including new design and development tools and a beta of the 64-bit Linux version of Flash Player 10.

The Linux news came a few days before Microsoft and Novell announced the beta of Moonlight, an open source implementation of Silverlight that runs on Linux.

Silverlight, which first shipped in September 2007 and was called a Flash killer, is a browser plug-in that supports streaming video and so-called Rich Internet Applications (RIA).

While the snub from MLB, which will shift to Flash in 2009, is bad press for Microsoft, the company still has the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a customer and it announced earlier this week that Blockbuster was giving up Flash to move to Silverlight for its MovieLink application.

Perhaps to spin the coming MLB news, Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president in Microsoft's developer division, blogged the day before the Adobe announcement about the Blockbuster news and Silverlight 3.0. He highlighted new customers Microsoft has signed up in the past month.

"Over the last month we've seen several major new deployments of Silverlight for media scenarios," Gutherie wrote. "For example: CBS College Sports is now using Silverlight to stream NCAA events from its 170 partner colleges and university... And Netflix two weeks ago rolled out its new Instant Watch service using Silverlight."

Guthrie also highlighted the use of Silverlight to power this summer's Web-based Olympic coverage in the United States, France, the Netherlands, Russia and Italy.

"In addition to video quality, a big reason behind these broadcasters decision to use Silverlight was the TCO and streaming cost difference Silverlight provided," Guthrie wrote.

One poster on Guthrie's blog responded by saying: "It is really unfortunate that this post coinsides [sic] with the news that Major League Baseball dumps Silverlight for Flash. For me as a .Net developer, I would prefer Silverlight as the learning curve is shorter but for corporates who think of the economic side of the equation, it is a big decision to make."

Adobe on Monday said Flash is on 98% of Internet-connected desktops.

At its Max conference, the company also rolled out a beta, code-named Gumbo, that is the next version of its Adobe Flex Builder and a preview of Adobe Flash Catalyst.

The company also announced the availability of Adobe AIR 1.5, a developer tool for delivering RIA's independent of the browser interface.

MLB.com will provide a downloadable RIA that was built with Air to provide additional features beyond the Web browser.

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