Microsoft is compelled to offer an AJAX solution, said analyst John Rymer, vice president of application development and infrastructure at Forrester Research.
"It fills a gap within their development environment. They didn't address AJAX at all," Rymer said. "I think a lot of people are overestimating AJAX, how valuable it's going to be. But a lot of people are using it, and Microsoft just had no answer."
He added that AJAX is just scripting. Although flexible and easy, it is difficult to maintain applications written with scripts because of a lack of structure, he said. "It's not a silver bullet."
ClearNova, however, is revamping its product around AJAX. The vendor is announcing its ThinkCAP JX (Complete Application Platform AJAX) environment. Previously, ThinkCAP did not support AJAX.
"[ThinkCAP JX is] basically a RAD (rapid application development) for building rich Internet applications with Java technology," said Steve Benfield, vice president of strategy at ClearNova.
AJAX offers benefits in page presentation, Benfield said. "Normal Web interfaces are just clunky. You've got to refresh the page all the time. AJAX eliminates that."
ThinkCAP includes a visual workbench for page development, an event model for different aspects of development, data-aware controls, visual effects and a page flow designer for point-and-click building of application flow. It can be integrated with the Eclipse open source development environment.
Also featured is integration with approximately 25 open source frameworks and engines, including Struts and Hibernate. Additionally, an API is included to ease the process of building AJAX functionality into Java systems.
An official at Panda Restaurant Group, which plans to use ThinkCAP JX, expressed mixed feelings about AJAX but favors ClearNova's product.
A public beta release of ThinkCAP JX is due at the end of the month. The general release of the product is planned for the fourth quarter of this year. Prices begin at $2,500 for the ThinkCAP JX Workbench. For deploying applications, a server edition is required. The Enterprise Edition is priced at $15,000 per production server; the more restrictive Community Edition -- for deploying to Tomcat, JBoss and the MySQL database -- will be available at no charge.