Microsoft embraces AJAX, IronPython

Software giant details dynamic scripting efforts

Las Vegas -- Microsoft on Tuesday further embraced dynamic scripting, revealing AJAX-friendly (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) enhancements planned for the upcoming Visual Studio "Orcas" tools platforms and a marriage of IronPython and ASP.Net.

Orcas, which goes into a beta release cycle in the first half of 2007, will have integrated support for Microsoft's ASP.Net AJAX technology, which is available in a beta release as of this week. Also, Orcas will feature JavaScript Intellisense functionality, which provides coding assistance, as well as syntax checking. JavaScript debugging support also is planned, according to Scott Guthrie, general manager of Microsoft's Developer Division, during a presentation at the Visual Studio Connections conference on Tuesday.

Other AJAX-friendly features in Orcas include a greatly improved HTML designer and rich CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) support. Microsoft also will bolster AJAX extender controls such as its extender for animation.

Another function planned for Orcas is a split-view capability, allowing for a design view and examination of source code at the same time. .Net LINQ (Language Integrated Query) capability is planned as well.

ASP.Net AJAX supports several browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. Opera backing is planned. Microsoft with its AJAX effort is tackling what has been viewed by some as the user-unfriendliness of JavaScript.

A conference attendee who has been using Microsoft's AJAX offering said he looked forward to the final product, which is due later this year. "Getting to a final release will be really important because it's changed a lot over the last year, fairly dramatically," said Steven Tucker, software engineer at medical device builder Boston Scientific. "Getting to a release that we know is not going to change is going to be helpful."

IronPython, which is an implementation of the Python programming language for Microsoft's .Net platform, is being linked to the ASP.Net Web development platform. Microsoft is offering its IronPython Community Technology Preview (CTP) for ASP.Net.

"Combining the simplicity of Python with the power of ASP.Net, this CTP release of IronPython for ASP.Net allows developers to create rich Web applications using a new implementation of the popular Python programming language," the Web page for the project states.

Another IronPython-related project discussed briefly by Microsoft technologists on Tuesday was called "Simplified Data Scenarios." Still without an official name or launch date, the technology makes it easier to build a data-bound application, Microsoft officials said.

IronPython is just the first of a series of dynamic language efforts Microsoft is considering. Other efforts could involve languages such as Ruby, Jscript, and PowerShell, said Jeff King, a program manager for the .Net developer platform team at Microsoft.

Guthrie cited Microsoft plans for three other major product releases this year, in addition to the general release of ASP.Net AJAX version 1.0. These include:

* Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0, Microsoft's latest Web server, which will be part of the upcoming Vista OS. IIS 7.0 ships later this week. It features configuration, administration, and extensibility enhancements.

"Among other things, it unifies the configuration between IIS and ASP.Net," Guthrie said.

* SharePoint 2007, which will be available shortly as part of the Office 2007 package. Built on ASP.Net, the new SharePoint release features collaboration, document-sharing, portal management, and business intelligence.

* Expression Web Designer, a Web design tool due later in 2007 and featuring HTML and ASP.Net support. It functions with Visual Studio.

Guthrie noted that today is the one-year anniversary of the launches of Visual Studio 2005 and ASP.Net 2.0.

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