February 12, 2009, 12:00 AM

Microsoft’s Silverlight sparks new level of imaging at HardRock.com

Microsoft’s new Silverlight platform for deploying things like high-resolution, interactive images offers the capability to bring iPhone-like scrolling and zooming to PC screens, web design experts say.

One of the most promising new technologies emerging for dressing up retail web sites-Microsoft Corp.’s Silverlight platform for deploying high-resolution, interactive images-offers the capability to bring iPhone-like scrolling and zooming to PC screens, web design experts say.

One of the best applications of Silverlight so far, experts say, is in the Memorabilia section of Hard Rock Café International Inc.’s HardRock.com, where visitors can view in a single, interactive block of images hundreds of items like John Lennon’s sunglasses and a piece of paper on which he wrote the lyrics to “Don’t Let Me Down.” With a computer mouse, visitors can zoom in and out of the more than 600 images, either as a block all at once or individually, and click each to pull up a widget of details, including a link to e-mail the image to a friend.

Visitors can also use a mouse to scroll the entire block of images up, down or sideways, and select subcategories of images, such as by clicking “Beatles” or “Rolling Stones” in a side navigation bar to select only the images associated with those groups.

The Hard Rock Memorabilia page was developed by Point Richmond, CA-based web site design and development firm Vertigo, which deployed its own Big Picture imaging application on top of Microsoft’s Deep Zoom imaging technology on the Silverlight platform, says manager of business development Blake Sorrell. Silverlight is based on Microsoft’s .Net web development environment.

Although HardRock.com includes an e-commerce section for purchasing apparel and gift items, the Silverlight-based Memorabilia section itself does not include an e-commerce function. But building similar applications on the Silverlight platform to directly support e-commerce is seen by Vertigo as a natural development, Sorrell says. “I can definitely see it moving in that direction,” he says.

Mike Julson, chief technology officer of Escalate Retail Inc., a provider of multi-channel e-commerce technology, says Silverlight offers advantages over other imaging platforms for providing extremely high-quality video files on web sites, although Adobe Inc. has also launched the Adobe Air platform for developing high-level Flash images. The better the quality of product images, he adds, the more effective those images will be in helping to sell products.

It won’t be long, Julson says, before businesses use Silverlight to begin deploying interactive imaging, similar to what’s found on HardRock.com and Apple Inc.’s iPhone, on e-commerce sites, in-store kiosks and a broader range of cell phones.

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