Accompanying Silverlight 4 will be design improvements in the upcoming Visual Studio 2010 software development platform release, including a full WYSIWIG design surface as well as XAML and Intellisense capabilities.
To better enable development of business applications, version 4 features support for programmatic printing, right-click support, and rich text editing as well as programmatic access to the clipboard and built-in mouse wheel support for Silverlight capabilities. Custom print dialogs are enabled also.

"We're also adding features like implicit styling support so you can consistently style all the controls within your app," Guthrie said.

Silverlight 4 offers access to microphones, Webcams, audio and video input and multicast streaming. Digital rights management is featured as well. Microsoft, Guthrie said, has been on "very fast release cadence" with Silverlight, offering the first three releases in the space of 22 months. Silverlight 4 continues this pattern, he said.

Installed on a reported 33 percent of interconnected devices worldwide, Silverlight is perhaps the most-formidable rival to the more-established Adobe Flash platform. Silverlight has been used for streaming of events such as the Winter Olympics and Sunday Night Football. "This provides one of the most immersive and engaging experiences on the Web," Guthrie said.

However, in the UK, Silverlight is used by only one major broadcaster for its streaming of TV content -- the Sky Player -- while the BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and Five all used Flash

Gutherie also showed a demonstration of Silverlight being used to read a product bar code, providing pricing information via a link to a Web service. Special effects were shown with Silverlight enabling picture distortions similar to a carnival funhouse mirror.

In addition to its Silverlight efforts, Microsoft is offering its Internet Information Services (IIS) Media Services for "smooth streaming." The next version will enable streams to devices that do not support browser plug-ins, such as the Apple iPhone.

In an unusual expression of generosity Wednesday, Microsoft at the PDC in Los Angeles said it would give away PCs, specifically an Acer Aspire 1420P Convertible Tablet PC running Windows 7, to all paid attendees. Microsoft would not disclose the number of paid attendees or provide an estimate.