At its MIX09 interactive design conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft has released a beta version of its Silverlight 3 rich Internet application (RIA) technology and a Preview version of its Expression Blend 3 interactive design software.

Microsoft says that Silverlight 3 helps designers and developers build RIAs that work faster with a new set of over 60 controls that boost its graphics, animation and 3D capabilities. Silverlight 3 also offers true high-definition video in full-screen mode, with stutter-free live and on-demand video, according to the company. Silverlight 3 gives users more video format choices than ever before, including H.264, along with enhancements such as deep linking, to improve navigation in Silverlight content and automate search engine optimization (SEO) tasks.

Silverlight 3 also enables interactive teams to create lightweight Web application experiences that can exist outside the browser.

Read our guide to the creative possibilities offered by Microsoft's Silverlight and WPF technologies.

Microsoft's Expression Blend 3 Preview adds SketchFlow, a new capability that allows designers to quickly prototype the flow and composition of applications. This allows designers to easily receive annotated feedback on prototypes from clients and more rapidly iterate on a project from concept to completion. In addition, Expression Blend directly supports the import of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files (including layers and paths), integration of live preview sample data, and a wide set of rich behaviours.

Microsoft says that Silverlight has made significant progress since it was launched at MIX07. The company claims that
hundreds of thousands of developers and designers are using Silverlight, and including within organizations such as AOL, eBay, BSkyB (including the Sky Player on-demand service), Netflix, CBS Sports Online, and the European Commission.