updated 06:30 pm EST, Fri December 9, 2011
Plug-in expected to be discontinued
As expected, Microsoft has released a major update to its Silverlight plug-in for Windows and Mac computers. Version 5 brings several new features, including hardware decoding for H.264 media and improved 3D graphics performance, however the release is believed to be the final major update for the application framework.
The framework has been in use for more than four years, serving as a competitor to Adobe's Flash technology. Microsoft also chose Silverlight as one of the development platforms, alongside XNA, for Windows Phone 7.
Unofficial reports suggest the technology is at the end of its life cycle, as browser plug-ins face increasing competition from universal standards such as HTML5. The framework is expected to continue as a development platform for the company's smartphone and gaming platforms.
Microsoft has committed to extending support for Silverlight 5 all the way out to 2021, representing a significant jump from the three-year life cycle for the previous version. The company has yet to confirm plans to cease Silverlight development.