Microsoft Eyes The Future of Web Development

Microsoft unveiled two tools that it plans to use to extend its reach into the Web 2.0 landscape -- voice-activated search service via TellMe Networks, and Silverlight, a browser plug-in set to rival Adobe's Flash.

On the mobile search front, San Francisco-based TellMe Networks launched its free, voice-activated search service. The service allows users to search for local businesses by name or category, and then either hear or view the result via their mobile phone, creating an ideal platform for contextual ads. Microsoft's deal to acquire TellMe for an estimated $800 million underscores the growing importance of voice-activated applications for mobile search. Microsoft, along with other technology companies, is looking for the next area of search growth and mobile is key.

Microsoft earlier this week launched Silverlight, a plug-in for playing media files and displaying interactive Web applications. Silverlight is part of a full suite of cross-platform Web development tools slated for release in the second quarter. Both tools will run on Windows and Mac operating systems.

Given the rapid growth of rich media-enabled content and online video, any platform that's able to compete with Adobe's Flash represents an important source of revenue for the software giant. Microsoft could face hurdles in enticing both Web content developers and the media companies that use them to switch to Silverlight in lieu of Flash. Considering the software giant's previous failed attempts at cross-platform applications, Web developers, bloggers and industry executives alike are skeptical.

"Microsoft, historically, has never demonstrated a commitment to maintaining a cross-platform solution," said Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen in a statement. "I'm not sure our customers or the people that are trying to deliver that content will have [a high] degree of confidence ... if they go with Microsoft."

Though Microsoft may be hurling anti-trust insults at Google in the wake of the search giant's $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick, it still has Web dominance in its sights and is moving aggressively on developing mobile applications for search.