Microsoft officials announced yesterday that they plan to launch Silverlight 3 and its Expression Studio 3 family of designer tools on July 10. Previously looking to finish by the end of the year, their present release date will come months in advance. For the inquisitive developers patiently waiting to check out the latest version of Silverlight, there is a beta lacking "go-live" licensing and the end-user runtime. Announced back in March, it is currently the only planned beta.

The third version of Silverlight is expected to bring upwards of 50 new features, above all 3D support, GPU acceleration, a slew of additional media support and out-of-the-browser capabilities. It is expected to deliver support for H.264, AAC, full 720p+ playback and an extensible decoder pipeline. Updates in line with the "richer experiences" include pixel shader and animation effects, a new bitmap API and improved text rendering and font support. Other features include 60+ controls with source code, deep linking, SEO, enhanced data support, and advanced accessibility functions.