Microsoft Wants a Piece of the Ajax Action

Microsoft doesn't want to be left behind when it comes to the development code name du jour. The result? Microsoft "Atlas," an Ajax-based programming framework, is born.

After downplaying the importance of the emerging Ajax programming model, Microsoft Corp. has decided to jump with booth feet into the Ajax fray.

On Tuesday, Microsoft unveiled "Atlas," a Web client framework that is designed to support multiple DHTML controls with JavaScript code.

With Atlas, Microsoft is looking to simplify Ajax programming, Microsoft officials said.

Microsoft is seeking to "remedy the fact that you dont have to be a rocket scientist" to figure out how to develop for all facets of the Web, said Charles Fitzgerald, general manager of Microsofts platform strategy group.

Atlas "will let you manage server-side interactions and support full-blown Web services," Fitzgerald said.

Ajax is the name of a programming model, which translates roughly to "asynchronous JavaScript and XML." Adaptive Path, a consultancy that does Web design work for companies large and small, is the firm that coined the Ajax moniker.

Adaptive Path points to Google Maps (the poster child for Ajax) and Google Suggest as examples of the kinds of applications that can and have been developed using Ajax principles and technologies. Ajax isnt meant to replace Flash, as some industry watchers have speculated. Instead, it can coexist with it, as another Ajax poster child, the online photo sharing app Flickr, demonstrates.

Ajax embraces a handful of disparate development technologies and techniques, including:

  • standards-based presentation using XHTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS);
  • dynamic display and interaction using the Document Object Model;
  • data interchange and manipulation using XML and XSLT;
  • asynchronous data retrieval using XMLHttpRequest;
  • and JavaScript binding everything together.

Microsoft and some of its backers claim that Microsoft has been doing Ajax-style development for years and had never gotten the credit for it. They point to Outlook Web Access as an example of an Ajax-style application developed by the Redmond software maker.

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