by Peter Galli on November 18, 2009 11:59am

The beta for Silverlight 4 was released today, Scott Guthrie, a Corporate Vice President in Microsoft's Developer Division, told attendees at the annual Professional Developers Conference here in Los Angeles.

The final verison of the product will be shipped in the first half of 2010, he said, noting that the release of the beta means that developers can begin testing the capabilities of Silverlight 4 to plan for the great applications and rich, compelling user experiences to come, both on and off the Web.

Some 90% of the most commonly requested features were incorporated into Silverlight 4, which is currently installed on 40% of all internet devices and more than 50% of US broadband PCs, Guthrie said.

A number of customers, including Snapflow, Seesmic and H&R Block, as well as numerous Microsoft properties such as Xbox, Bing and MSN, are all already using Silverlight to create compelling user experiences.

The Silverlight 4 beta extends beyond the browser, and brings new out-of-browser capabilities, enabling new experiences that reach deeper into the desktop without additional code or runtimes required.

Webcam and microphone with local recording capability opens new possibilities for innovative interactive media experiences, while native multicast support enables efficient enterprise-wide training and internal communications behind the firewall.

Full support for Silverlight in Visual Studio 2010 gives enterprise developers a tried and trusted development environment and languages that scales for mission-critical enterprise scenarios, while integration with Microsoft Office and Microsoft SharePoint bring the benefits of Silverlight interactivity to a broad enterprise install base, Guthrie said.

Enhanced printing, networking, databinding, reporting and charting capabilities satisfy common business needs, while Silverlight has a growing library of over 60 customizable controls to create rich, interactive applications to rapidly build attractive, functional business applications.

Microsoft also has extended support for Google's Chrome browser with Silverlight 4.

Microsoft is also working with the open source community to ensure that Silverlight content is available to them. Earlier this year, Moonlight 1.0 was released. Moonlight is an open source project that gives Linux users access to Microsoft Silverlight content, and is available for all major Linux distributions, including openSUSE, SUSE Linux Enterprise, Fedora, Red Hat, and Ubuntu.