As the world’s best athletes competed in Beijing, the summer Olympic games were setting the stage for a battle between Microsoft Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. over the internet’s next big competition, Reuters reports. Microsoft’s Silverlight technology and rival Adobe’s Flash format are currently locked in a race over who delivers the world’s online video, but the ultimate prize might be who powers the next generation of web software. Using Silverlight, the NBC web site offered a glimpse of what is possible with future web applications, because viewers were able to watch up to four videos at once or follow the action with an online commentary that runs alongside the video. More than 40 million U.S. viewers have gone to NBC’s Olympics site to watch some of the 2,200 hours of live footage from the Beijing games. All those viewers need is a Silverlight player on their browser if they do not have one already. By building up Silverlight’s user base, the world’s largest software maker is looking to win over developers who see web platforms such as Silverlight and Flash as a new way to deliver powerful web-linked programs incorporating rich graphics. Currently, those platforms are mainly reserved for multimedia applications such as Google Inc’s popular YouTube site, which runs on Adobe’s Flash technology. "It’s quickly becoming a very popular way to build next generation applications. There’s a lot of interest in capturing the hearts and minds of developers," said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst at Forrester Research. "It’ll be a big business."

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