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MARCH 6, 2008    

Watch out, Adobe?

If you design or build websites, here's a couple of words you might want to watch for: Expression Web and Silverlight. Each is a new Microsoft product aimed right at Adobe's industry-standard flagship software Dreamweaver and Flash.

I don't have any personal experience with either of the Microsoft products—yet. I probably won't anytime soon since I do most of my work on a Mac. As of March 2008 Expression Web works only with Windows. However, a related product, Expression Media is available for both Mac and PC, so maybe we'll get a version for the Mac in the future.

Screenshot of Expression Web descriptionIf you can believe Microsoft and the early reviews, Expression Web is much more than an update to FrontPage.

Arriving a bit late to the party—but better late than never—notice the third item in the product description at right: "Passionate about Standards". This is big news coming from a company whose earlier browsers, especially IE6, tended to treat web standards as an annoyance.

This generally very favorable review compares Expression Web with Dreamweaver.

As for Silverlight, I've heard it described as the MS alternative to Flash. Microsoft says it's "a cross-browser, cross-platform, and cross-device plug-in for delivering the next generation of .NET based media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web."

Silverlight was announced in May 2007 and it sounded great. Clearly it's not taken over the Web yet. Just yesterday, however, Microsoft announced Silverlight 2 along with Internet Explorer 8 (beta).

To see Silverlight in action, visit the Hard Rock Memorabilia site and follow the prompts to download and install the plug-in. This site looks like many you've seen built with Flash. Nice, but I didn't see any features that seem unique to Silverlight on it. You can see more samples at the Silverlight Showcase.

One twist that could make the new guys on the block (so to speak) more attractive is the rumor I've heard that Microsoft will offer the software free of charge to college students and faculty. Nothing I could find on the Microsoft website verifies this, showing only that academic discounts are available. At AcademicSuperstore.com Expression Web currently sells for about $60 vs. Dreamweaver's $198.

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MARCH 2008