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Microsoft has at last slipped out its AJAX architecture, but the latest addition to the Web 2.0 milieu faces a long march towards broad uptake.

The ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 framework, previously codenamed Atlas, provides a set of libraries for building rich interfaces and web applications on the Microsoft stack.

ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 can be used with Visual Studio 2005, and plans are afoot to support the next edition of Microsoft's integrated development environment, codenamed Orcas. Visual Studio Orcas will feature client-side JavaScript intellisense, JavaScript compilation checking, and rich JavaScript debugging for APS.NET AJAX.

Microsoft hopes ASP.NET AJAX can leverage the vast Windows PC and server footprint, and the presence of Visual Studio among millions of developers.

Windows' client server tools are certainly Microsoft's ace in the hole from a numbers perspective, but ASP.NET AJAX faces an uphill journey towards uptake.

The industry is stuffed with some 160 AJAX frameworks (up from four dozen a year ago), with developers consolidating around the most popular. An Ajaxian poll of 865 developers last autumn found the Prototype AJAX framework most popular, with 43 per cent of developers using it, followed by Script.aculo.us on 33 per cent, and Dojo Tookit on 19 per cent. Four per cent used Microsoft code - the same number as Google's Web Kit (GWK).

Against that background, Microsoft will need to do more than expect developers to adopt ASP.NET AJAX because it has been conceived by Microsoft and is optimised for Windows. So far, Microsoft seems to be trying to distinguish ASP.NET AJAX by offering developers telephone support for an offering that's available for free, thereby reducing technical hurtles in the way of adoption.

More details on ASP.NET AJAX can be found here. ®

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