Can Silverlight 5 help browser plugins survive in the new HTML 5 world?

The latest releases of IE 9 have brought around some pretty spectacular capabilities for JavaScript, Canvas, and other HTML 5 features. With Chrome 8 / 9 and Firefox 4 showing the same performance boosts coming soon, there were many questions raised over whether Silverlight – Microsoft’s browser plugin which directly competes with Adobe’s Flash – could fit in in this new HTML 5-enabled web.

But at a day-long “Firestarter” event at the end of last week, Microsoft made it clear that Silverlight was not being abandoned, and that there are some extremely nice features coming to the newest version very soon.

In terms of major features, it’s not light on the ground. Hardware acceleration for video has arrived, so graphics chips for video decoding acceleration are used (your netbook will probably play 1080p video a lot nicer this way). Power management features and remote control support is in; and for developers there is the much-requested data binding debugging, support for Azure in RIA services and WCF, and automated UI testing and improved profiling support.

The beta for Silverlight 5 is scheduled to land early in 2011, but for now you can catch up with the Firestarter day events online.

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