Microsoft Mulls OpenAJAX Initiative

The software giant receives an invitation to join a group of companies working to improve the AJAX development experience.

SAN FRANCISCO—Having received an invitation to join a group of companies working to improve the AJAX development experience, Microsoft is mulling over how it might work with the collaboration of companies known as the OpenAJAX initiative.

In an interview with eWEEK on May 11, Brian Goldfarb, lead product manager for Web Platform and Tools at Microsoft, said the software giant is open to having a dialogue with the group of companies pursuing an open-standards approach to AJAX.

"The idea of open collaboration around AJAX [Asynchronous JavaScript and XML] is a great thing," Goldfarb said. "Thats what were focusing on ourselves—look at the work weve done with Atlas." Atlas is Microsofts AJAX development framework.

Rod Smith, vice president of Internet technologies at IBM, which started the OpenAJAX effort, told eWEEK at the AJAX Experience conference here that the group extended an invitation to Microsoft based on the work the company has done with Atlas. Smith said the group extended an invitation to Microsoft not only to join the OpenAJAX group, as 13 companies did earlier this week, but also to attend a two-day meeting of the group to be held next week here.

/zimages/1/28571.gifAJAX experts tackle security and the Microsoft rivalry. Click here to read more.

"OpenAJAX is definitely an interesting development, and any cooperation in the community is always goodness for developers," Goldfarb said. "Microsoft just very recently received an invitation to join OpenAJAX, and we are open to a dialogue about the best way to help developers working with AJAX."

Meanwhile, Microsoft has been represented at the AJAX Experience conference by Brad Abrams, group product manager for the Atlas team. Adams is scheduled to give a talk on Atlas on May 12.

IBMs Smith said he hopes to see Microsoft come to the table on AJAX the way the company did with Web services, where Microsoft and IBM teamed to lead the Web services standards effort.

"We saw this before with XML and Web services." Smith said. "And I applaud the folks coming to the AJAX Summit" next week, he said. "I hope what comes out is the same as what came out of the early Web services meetings," where IBM, Microsoft and others drew up an early blueprint for Web services standards.

"You want to be inclusive of as many people as possible because there could be a Java EE [Enterprise Edition] back end that does AJAX, or a PHP or .Net one," Smith said. "I dont want to close any doors. I hope Microsoft does come. This is definitely not a good old boys club."

Yet, Goldfarb said that while OpenAJAX is more focused on the tools side of the AJAX equation, "were ultra-focused on the frameworks side with Atlas."

Microsoft is delivering tools "to simplify AJAX development today, with tens of thousands of developers taking advantage of ASP.Net code-named Atlas, which first shipped in September 2005," Goldfarb said. "We delivered a Go Live license in March 2006 that enables developers to begin building and deploying new Atlas applications today."

Meanwhile, another company that is not a member of the OpenAJAX group but is slated to attend the OpenAJAX Summit is Sun Microsystems, Smith said.

When IBM first announced the OpenAJAX initiative in February, Dan Roberts, director of developer tools marketing at Sun, said, "AJAX is a client-side technology and is not dependent on Java, .Net, or LAMP [Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl/Python] on the server side. If its done correctly, the technology should work well across the IT spectrum. There are many AJAX initiatives, and Sun agrees with IBM that there will be a consolidation as developers decide what set of tools they prefer."

Kevin Lynch, senior vice president and chief software architect at Adobe, which joined OpenAJAX earlier this week, said Adobe is sponsoring the OpenAJAX Summit at its facility in San Francisco.

"Im looking forward to see what comes out of the meetings," Lynch said. Moreover, Adobe is donating its newly announced Spry Framework to the effort, he said. The Spry Framework is aimed at designers and is an attempt to enable designers to work with AJAX more easily.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Adobes Spry Framework.

Kevin Hakman, product director for Tibco General Interface at Tibco Inc., said he will be in attendance at the event as well, and Tibco has some ideas to bring to the table.

"We have some thoughts about an AJAX container sort of like a J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] container, but for AJAX," Hakman said.

Yahoo will also be at the event, said Bill Scott, an AJAX evangelist at Yahoo. "Just having a forum is good," he said. "It creates collaboration."

Dylan Schiemann, co-founder of the Dojo project, which will be at the OpenAJAX event too, concurred. "Were really excited about it—for the ability to collaborate." Dojo is an AJAX framework.

Meanwhile, Scott Dietzen, president and chief technology officer at Zimbra, who delivered a keynote at the Java Experience conference on May 11, said he like the "shared vision that AJAX ought to continue to be across browsers and across desktops."

Indeed, he said he believes that "the best way for those of us who are not Microsoft" to thrive in the AJAX arena is to work together on standards-based solutions.

"The Microsoft stack is already there," Dietzen said. "Theyve done a nice job with Atlas and Visual Studio."

Indeed, Dietzen said he believes "its very difficult for any other proprietary vendor to carve out some real estate" in the AJAX space. "The best bet is to work with open source."

Yahoos Scott, however, said, "I hope for it not to be a case of OpenAJAX versus Microsoft. We need to work together all the way across the board."

New OpenAJAX members announced earlier this week include Adobe, Backbase, Fair Isaac, ICEsoft, Innoopract, Intel, JackBe, Opera, SAP, Scalix, Software AG, Tibco and XML11. These new members join the initial members BEA, Borland, the Dojo Foundation, Eclipse Foundation, Google, IBM, Laszlo Systems, Mozilla, Novell, Openwave Systems, Oracle, Red Hat, Yahoo, Zend and Zimbra.

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