Getting Rich with Rich Interfaces

April 17, 2007

At the end of March, Microsoft announced that it had joined the OpenAjax Alliance. The OpenAjax Alliance is an organisation of vendors, open source projects and companies using Ajax that are dedicated to the successful adoption of open and interoperable Ajax-based Web technologies. The prime objective is to accelerate customer success with Ajax by promoting a customer’s ability to mix and match solutions from Ajax technology providers. The OpenAjax Hub project is aiming at this goal. The OpenAjax Hub is a set of standard JavaScript functionality defined by the OpenAjax Alliance that addresses important interoperability issues that arise when multiple Ajax libraries are used within the same Web page.

Microsoft joined more than 70 member of the Alliance one year after its foundation. The motivations for this action could be multiple. First Microsoft has launched its ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 product in January. Then there is also the interest to promote Ajax as an “open” solution versus Adobe’s Flash as the preferred architecture for the Web rich interface. Microsoft will have to work so that is Ajax solution respects the OpenAjax conformance specifications. As far as the battle for rich Internet interface is concerned, the winner is still to be decided, and there could be more than one. Adobe is currently presenting the alpha release of its Apollo technology. Apollo is the code name for a cross-operating system runtime that supports Flash, Flex, ActionScript, HTML, JavaScript, CSS and Ajax. Adobe is currently targeting the second half of 2007 for the first release of Apollo, supporting Windows and Mac OS X. Support for Linux will be added later. Basically, Adobe is trying to propose a free runtime (like for Flash or Acrobat) that will allow consistent behaviour of Adobe proprietary Web interface solutions and standard technologies. It targets both traditional Web applications and mobile devices.

Software Factories: Success or Failure?

February 2, 2007

A recent InfoWorld article publicized the blog post of S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division, celebrating the fact that its Software Factories product had more than 100,000 downloads in six months. The InfoWorld article was rather negative on the technology as an analyst defined the Software Factory technology as “unimportant”.

Initiatives like the software factories or the software product lines are often badly considered in the software development world. First, they are not really understood. In the InfoWorld article, the analyst is quoted comparing software factories and object-oriented programming. The industrial background of these approaches could seem also more difficult to transpose in the world of consumer or business applications development where software is not closely connected to devices. I think however that they provide a very interesting vision for projects that are interested in developing software for a multi-customers target or with a strong focus on product evolution.

More information on the Web:
Software Product Line Development community Web site
Introduction to the Emerging Practice of Software Product Line Development
Making an Incremental Transition to Software Product Line Practice
Software Product Line Engineering with Feature Model

Microsoft Frees Ajax

January 30, 2007

Microsoft has just released ASP.NET AJAX 1.0. This product (formerly known as “Atlas”) integrates cross-browser client script libraries with the ASP.NET 2.0 development framework. ASP.NET AJAX is not just for ASP.NET developers. Developers targeting other server frameworks can take advantage of the Microsoft AJAX Library. This library is a standalone collection of the standards-based JavaScript classes included in ASP.NET AJAX. It’s supported by most popular browsers and can be used to build Web applications that integrate with any backend data provider. This free software can be downloaded here.

With this release, Microsoft joins, albeit late, a crowded market for Ajax related frameworks provided by open source projects, small or large (Google) companies. Market is perhaps not the right word as a vast majority of solutions are available for free. Microsoft product will certainly get some following in the .NET community and this will hurt current providers of paid frameworks like Telerik or zumiPage. With its free client-side library, Microsoft can also appeal to people looking for developers outside the ASP world.

More information on the Web
Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications (original Ajax article)
Wikipedia on Ajax
Wikipedia on Ajax frameworks
Comparison of AJAX frameworks for ASP.NET
Exploring Ajax Runtime Offerings (java oriented)

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