Microsoft uses Ajax to Web-enable corporate IM

Product is called Office Communicator Web Access

Microsoft Corp. Tuesday released a Web-based version of its corporate instant-messaging software that gives users access when they are working remotely or from non-Windows computers. Gurdeep Singh Pall, a Microsoft corporate vice president, unveiled the product, Office Communicator Web Access, in a keynote at the Interop New York 2005 show.

Office Communicator Web Access includes support for Ajax (Asynchronous Javascript and XML), a programming technology that enables developers to build applications that can be altered dynamically on a browser page without changing what happens on the server. The product provides a Web front end to Microsoft's Office Communicator desktop application, and is available to customers of Live Communications Server 2005 for immediate download at www.microsoft.com/rtc, said Paul Duffy, a senior product manager at Microsoft.

Microsoft previously released a beta of Office Communicator Web Access, he said.

Office Communicator Web Access works only if Live Communications Server 2005 is running in a company's IT network, but a corporate user can access it through various browsers using a standard Web connection, Duffy said. In addition to Microsoft's own Internet Explorer (IE) browser, the client can be accessed through the Firefox, Safari and Netscape browsers, he said.

The addition of an Ajax programming model to Office Communicator Web Access gives companies options for how their employees can access the client, said Mike Gotta, principal analyst with The Burton Group.

Previously, he said, Microsoft had planned to release a Web client for Office Communicator that would work in a standard browser page, but could not be altered to be accessed in any other way by a user. The inclusion of Ajax means an IT team can take Office Communicator Web Access and incorporate it as one part of a corporate portal alongside an employee's other applications such as e-mail or calendar, Gotta said.

"Ajax opens it up a bit [so] developers can do more interesting things with it," he said. "Rather than you launch it and it does what it does, if you don't like it as a stand-alone browser, you can do something in a portal. IT groups can have a little more flexibility with how they want to deliver [Office Communicator] Web Access."

Ajax is comprised of DHTML (Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language) and HTTP XML (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Extensible Markup Language), which first appeared in Microsoft IE in 1997. The technologies did not take off among developers at the time, but Ajax has become a more popular technology in the past year as users are demanding a richer experience from increasingly complex Web-based applications.

Indeed, development technologies such as Ajax lend themselves to making Web-based applications run nearly as richly as desktop applications, Gotta said.

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