AJAX Developers Tell Microsoft IE Is Not Enough

A Microsoft partner stresses that the software giant sees browser compatibility as job one for its Atlas AJAX development framework.

BOSTON—When it comes to Asynchronous JavaScript and XML programming, browser compatibility is number one for Microsoft, said a key Microsoft partner who spoke here on the companys behalf.

Jeff Prosise, co-founder of Wintellect, a Knoxville, Tenn., consulting, debugging and training firm specializing in Microsoft .NET and Windows technologies, spoke about Microsofts AJAX development framework known by its codename "Atlas" at the Microsoft TechEd 2006 conference, and noted that browser compatibility is a primary goal for Microsoft.

In a birds-of-a-feather session entitled "AJAX, ASP.Net and You: All About Microsoft Atlas," Prosise said: "Heres the deal on Atlas today; we are deadly serious about browser compatibility."

Addressing the packed session, Prosise asked how important it was to the group of Web application developers that they be able to target more than one browser with their development framework.

"You mean theres more than one browser?" one member of the Microsoft-oriented audience blurted out, drawing laughter from the crowd.

"How important is it that Atlas be able to work in more than one browser?" Prosise asked again.

The vast majority of the people in the room raised their hands and said cross-browser capability was important to them. Indeed, more than 50 percent said they have customers who use Macs and are in need of browser support beyond Microsofts Internet Explorer.

And only two members of the audience said they did not care about browser compatibility because they only worked in the IE space.

Most members in the audience said they needed to support IE and Firefox, and a large number said they also needed to be able to support the Safari and Mozilla browsers.

But only a relative few said they needed or cared about support for the Opera browser.

One developer, who requested anonymity, said Microsoft needs to pressure the browser makers to be more compatible. "This is the vehicle to make it happen," he said of Atlas. "Lets assume Opera has to adopt," he said.

Another developer added: "If its important to get to Opera, you may have to do a little work for it."

Meanwhile, Prosise noted that "99 percent of you seem to be satisfied with support for four browsers." The four browsers being IE, Firefox, Safari and Mozilla, he added.

And Prosise said the audience feedback was welcome because, "The Atlas team is relatively small and they can never have enough developers or testers. So I cant say if Opera support is driven by scheduling or resources, but they need to hear from you."

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Microsoft released its most recent CTP (Community Technology Preview) of Atlas in April 2006, but has not said exactly when a commercial version of the technology will be available.

Sources said a June 2006 CTP will become available soon, but will be primarily a bug-fix release.

Prosise said he was under a NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and could not comment on product availability. However, he said that according to Microsofts public statements, the technology will be released by the end of 2006. "And I think its likely theyll follow through on that," he said.

Moreover, Prosise said he was "shocked" that when Microsoft released its March CTP of Atlas, it had a limited Go-Live license to enable developers to put sites they have been building with Atlas into production.

"And I think to some extent they regret having released that Go-Live license so early," Prosise said, noting that initially Microsoft had talked about releasing the Go-Live license with a CTP later in the summer.

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