RealTime IT News

Microsoft Ships Second 'Atlas' Beta

Microsoft has launched the second beta of its ASP.NET AJAX Extensions, formerly known as Atlas, a trio of extensions designed to make it easy to develop Ajax applications on Microsoft's .Net platform.

ASP.NET AJAX consists of three components: ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 Beta2, the core components that includes the client-side and server-side functionality; the Control Toolkit, a collection of more than 30 controls for building Ajax-enabled applications; and the Futures November CTP, a collection of forthcoming features.

Beta 2 features a number of performance updates and bug fixes, as would be expected, along with new controls, support for non-Ajax browsers, new client-side APIs, JavaScript Localization and Debugging, CSS helpers and controls for both Safari and FireFox.

One of the knocks on Ajax development is its difficulty. Brian Goldfarb, group product manager of the Web platform and tools team at Microsoft   said the company was out to address that.

"Our goal with ASP AJAX is to make Ajax programming easy," he said. "We've extended the ASP.NET model to automatically do much of the required plumbing for an Ajax implementation, and the UpdatePanel automatically handles the differences between browsers."

UpdatePanel is a control in ASP.NET AJAX that handles page rendering and eliminates the need for a refresh, one of the most annoying elements of browsing and a key feature in Ajax's popularity in that it eliminates the need for a screen refresh.

ASP.NET has been fully integrated into Microsoft's newest servers, such as Commerce Server 2007, Internet Information Server 7 and Office Sharepoint 2007. So developers only need to program to the ASP model, not a specific model in each server. This will allow them to write Ajax-enabled applications across Microsoft's product line, Goldfarb said.

Goldfarb said that the JavaScript code used in ASP.NET AJAX is 100 percent ECMAScript compatible, so there should be no difference between code created for Internet Explorer, FireFox or Opera because all of the browsers are standards-based.

Microsoft has gotten into the Ajax/Web 2.0 game a lot faster than it normally has entered new markets, said Daryl Plummer, an analyst with Gartner, and ASP.NET.

"They have said that Ajax is going to be a top-tier technology in their stack, and the success of ASP.NET hinges on whether or not people believe Microsoft is serious about Ajax. I think they are, and it will be well received by most of the ASP customer base," he told internetnews.com.

The problem Microsoft faces is a potential conflict with its own rich client efforts via Microsoft Expression vs. Ajax. Microsoft's stance is that both Expression and Ajax development should be seamless, said Plummer, but developers might see things differently.

"As Ajax continues to gain followers, it's seen as the darling of those who prefer open source, whereas the Microsoft rich client is seen as a Microsoft way of doing things," he said. "To an Ajax fanatic, it's a huge conflict because you don't get locked into Windows if you do Ajax only."

But he feels more and more companies are mixing both .Net and Java in their environments, so embracing both platforms is the best option for them.

Goldfarb expects the final code for ASP.NET AJAX Extensions to be released before the end of the year.