RealTime IT News

Gates Mixes It Up With IE, Atlas

Bill Gates kicked off Microsoft's MIX06 conference with a goal: to help Web designers use the Internet to create better customer experiences.

The Microsoft chairman and chief software architect's decree is part of the company's plan to grab the attention of Web designers who are building Web logs, wikis and RSS feeds to serve growing customer demands.

The gist of his keynote Monday was that customers are looking to build interactive Web sites that give users who access them more control, as well as better browsers through which to access them.

To meet these evolving needs, officials for the software giant demonstrated the latest technology builds for Internet Explorer 7 and Atlas.

One of these builds was a refresh of the IE 7 Beta 2 preview, which will be released to the Windows XP technical community to encourage developers to test their applications and sites with the new browser.

IE 7 will include a streamlined interface with better tabs; a "low-rights mode" security utility to stave off phishing; and support for CSS, native XML and HTTP; and RSS capabilities.

For example, Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer at Microsoft, showed how new RSS functionality in IE 7 called Simple List Extensions (SLE) can improve Web users' experiences.

Underscoring the fact that e-commerce heavyweights are on board with IE 7, the product manager said Amazon.com and eBay are creating SLE-enabled RSS feeds that will allow customers to manipulate and interact with RSS feeds of data.

IE 7 has been a long time coming and industry experts have been critical of the dogged pace with which Microsoft has advanced the browser. In the meantime, rivals like Opera and Firefox have emerged as favorites among the Web-savvy crowd.

Gates acknowledged Microsoft's delay in a mea culpa and pledged to do better.

"I think really the key point I want to make is that IE 7 is not the end of the line," Gates said. "In a sense, what we're doing is saying, 'hey, we waited too long for a browser release.'"

Microsoft also announced a "go-live" license for Atlas, a set of extensions to ASP.NET . Atlas leverages the AJAX programming protocol for flexible Web development.

AJAX, used in rival applications from Google and Yahoo, is used in Atlas to help developers improve their existing Microsoft ASP.NET applications.

Gates then invited programmers from popular social-networking site MySpace to show how they use Atlas to help non tech-savvy users drag and drop modules to present their public profiles on the Web.

The MIX06 event in Les Vegas will run through Wednesday, with Microsoft showing off additional existing and pending products.