Not willing to concede the market to Adobe, Microsoft has released a new major version of its Silverlight web browser plug-in. Among the new features in version 3.0 are 3D support, GPU acceleration, support for H.264 and AAC encoding, deep linking, image and text improvements and more. The official launch of Silverlight 3 is scheduled for tomorrow, but the actual bits are available now from Microsoft’s website.

One of the main new features of Silverlight 3 is its support for running applications outside the browser. This is similar to Adobe’s AIR in that it will allow apps to run on Windows or Mac clients and provide users with online, offline or intermittently connected access to content. However, Microsoft officials claim there will be advantages that Silverlight 3 offers over AIR, starting with the fact that developers and users won’t need to download an additional runtime in order to get out-of-the-browser support.

Microsoft is also including Smooth Streaming support in Silverlight 3, which dynamically detects network and local PC conditions to seamlessly switch the video quality of videos. People with high-bandwidth connections and newer hardware can experience HD quality streaming, while others with lower connection speeds or simply experiencing a temporary drop in bandwidth receive an appropriate stream for their current conditions, allowing an uninterrupted streaming experience with the highest quality possible.