Microsoft has used its keynote opening speech at the MIX08 web designer and developer conference in Las Vegas to launch online public betas of Internet Explorer 8, Silverlight 2 and Expression Studio 2.

In his address Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie told the assembled ranks of that Microsoft sees the internet as being central to its continued evolution as the company.

“The Web is at the centre of everything Microsoft is doing,” he said. “The investments we’re making will enable developers and designers to deliver a range of seamless, connected experiences across the continuum of Web applications, rich clients, mobile and other devices.”

iPhone with Silverlight?

While the launch of the IE8 beta has been widely anticipated and merely builds on previous incarnations of Microsoft’s evergreen web browser, the launch of beta codes for Silverlight and Expression Web is of far more interest because it propels Microsoft into an area more commonly associated with Macromedia.

In the same way that Silverlight throws down the gauntlet to Flash, Expression Web can also be seen as a direct challenge to Macromedia’s Dreamweaver web-building software. And while it might not be as powerful as Dreamweaver, it’s a definite step up from FrontPage, providing more for serious web-builders to get their teeth into.

Only today Apple’s Steve Jobs criticized Flash. Could it be that future versions of the iPhone will look to incorporate Silverlight functionality? To be honest, such a scenario remains highly unlikely, but you never know.