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.NET 3.0, Ajax, Office dev tools near completion

Vista, formerly known as the Longhorn client, is ready for its close-up. That means the NET Framework 3.0 is available, as is the tool for developing Office 2007 apps using Visual Studio 2005. And even as Microsoft updates its flagship desktop offerings, it is boosting new styles of Web development with its Ajax tools for ASP.NET.

This article originally appeared here on TheServerSide.NET.

LAS VEGAS -- It's been a long, hard journey, and its server personality is yet to be unveiled, but Microsoft Vista, formerly known as the Longhorn client, is ready for its close-up. At the same time it announced that the Windows Vista operating system had been released to manufacturing, Microsoft said the Visual Studio 2005 extensions for the NET Framework 3.0 were released to the Web. .NET 3.0 itself ships with Vista.

The release of Vista, 2007 Office system and Exchange Server 2007 to manufacturing comes in anticipation of a Nov. 30 launch to business users and MSDN subscribers.

Central elements to NET 3.0 are Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), a new method for building user interfaces; Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), for building infrastructure that can conform to notions of service-oriented architecture; Windows Workflow Foundation (WF), for modeling and building business processes; and Windows CardSpace, a means for securing user account and ID information across applications. Microsoft is betting that these tools will be used over coming months to create innovative applications that justify a move to Vista and Office 2007 by corporations and individuals.

More on these topics from
ASP.NET AJAX Learning Guide

Special Report from the .NET 3.0 Roadshow

Windows Presentation Foundation Learning Guide

Windows Communication Foundation Learning Guide

Windows Workflow Foundation Learning Guide

Visual Studio Tools for Office Learning Guide

Details of these new offerings are emerging this week at ASP.NET Connections in Las Vegas, Nevada and TechEd 2006 Europe in Barcelona, Spain.

Get visceral

.NET 3.0 is key to many aspects of Office and Vista, said Jay Roxe, group product manager for Visual Studio, Microsoft.

"Part is building better user experiences. [The software] gives users new ways of viewing data, and users can have a more visceral relationship with applications," he said. In fact, WPF is somewhat influenced by Microsoft's experience in computer games markets. DirectX 10 software is supported by WPF, NET 3.0 and Vista, and provides higher levels of realism in multimedia applications by better exploiting users' hardware.

"WPF makes it easier to build 2D and 3D, and integrate media," said Roxe in an interview at ASP.NET Connections. He also pointed to the new Windows Sidebar gadgets as a functionality that developers will use to create new-style apps.


Its Windows operating systems and desktop productivity tools have long been Microsoft's bread and butter offerings, but, as part of its continuing efforts to support Web-based computing, the company continues to enhance ASP.NET web development platform and tools. Its ASP.NET AJAX tools initiative, formerly known as Atlas, was vividly displayed at the ASP Connections conference.

The first beta of the ASP.NET Toolkit for AJAX was announced a mere three weeks ago. With the last release so recent, changes in a beta two version of Microsoft's AJAX development framework, just announced, are few. There are changes to the update progress control, script sizing improvements, and bug fixes.

Microsoft highlights these changes in Beta 2:

  • The Update Progress control is now part of the supported core.
  • Client-side Localization. Client script can now automatically retrieve localized resources on the server making it possible to create locale- and region-aware Web interfaces.
  • Simplified Event Binding API. Functionality for binding and detaching multiple event handlers to a DOM element via a simple function call which reduces the amount of script and helps prevent memory leaks.
  • Debugging and Tracing Improvements. Better support for identifying and diagnosing issues during development and deployment.

Taking as a whole, these changes are important, the company contends. "It's about baking the core platform to make it more stable," said Brian Goldfarb, product manager, Microsoft ASP.NET.

Among frameworks aimed at Ajax development -- a Javascript-oriented technology brew that tends to cache more browser data and take a more innovative approach to setting up data transfers between server and client -- there are a number of open-source alternatives. Microsoft's Goldfarb said the company's commitment to support ASP.NET 2.0 AJAX distinguishes its approach from the open-source offerings. That could be important in some enterprises where, in Goldfarb's terms, "they need the 'Bat Phone to Support' if something goes wrong."

Goldfarb said the company is taking a new licensing approach, based on shared-source precepts, with the Ajax kit: "We are doing a couple of things in the space. We are releasing an [underlying] JavaScript library that is platform agnostic. And we are using an MSPL [Microsoft Permissive License] that is part of the shared-source initiative."

With the latest release of the Microsoft Ajax tools, known as the ASP.NET 2.0 AJAX Extensions 1.0 Beta 2, only features that will be supported by Microsoft Product Support are included. A "Futures" CTP has been released that includes features that did not make the jump from CTP to Beta.

Smooth sledding

Ben Noonan, Internet project and development manager, Burton Snowboards, Burlington, VT, has worked with a team to bring AJAX via ASP.NET to a Web site aimed at snowboarders.

 The AJAX Atlas toolkit made perfect sense. It was easy for developers to drag and drop functionality into existing applications.
Ben Noonan
Internet project and development managerBurton Snowboards

"Our user base is a demanding one. They are Web savvy. They are looking to experience the snow boarding live style," he said, indicating that cutting-edge technology like Ajax can improve the company's relationship with customers.

Burton Snowboard, and its customers, wanted a site with more content, and that was more engaging, said Noonan. The result of AJAX deployment has been improved traffic and more 'stickiness,' as customers spend more time interacting with the site.

People can more easily navigate the sites 'tree' of products. They can 'paginate' between, say, 15 pages at a time, instead of requiring a whole page refresh in order to select between different snowboarding products, said Noonan.

"We wanted to do that in the development environment we were familiar with," said Noonan, noting that none of team had too much JavaScript background coming into the project.

"The AJAX Atlas toolkit made perfect sense," he said. "It was easy for developers to drag and drop functionality into existing applications."


Despite many years of Windows Vista product development, Microsoft is still in the early stages of helping developers create new Vista apps.

Mike Gilpin, analyst, Forrester, positions .NET 3.0 Framework as an attempt to bring new capabilities to the WinFX APIs. "The framework helps, but it doesn't get you all the way there," said Gilpin. More Visual Studio tools supporting .NET 3.0 development would improve ease-of-use for developers, he indicated.

"For enterprise developers, the scenario where they would want to take advantage of the new [WCF] APIs would be where they might have a complex integration they want to do in a certain way," he said.

"Where the use WPF would be in a particularly user-centric application where they want to maximize the ease-of-use and attractiveness for the end user," said Gilpin, pointing to clothier NorthFace's use of WPF for a sales kiosk and the New York Times' use of WFP for a new "Times Reader" application, as examples of notable .NET 3.0 user-centric applications.

"It is a strong suit for Microsoft. The attention lately has been drawn away from Windows by things like the Web and AJAX, which Microsoft also supports with its Atlas Project," Gilpin said. He noted an emerging trend toward dual approaches to client development, where Web interfaces support customers and rich clients are used by, say, call center staff. Even in the call center, he noted, the Web client is often used, although the views the 'inside' staff have access to are different than those afforded 'outside' customers.

Product onslaught

There were many more announcements from Microsoft this week. A new edition of VSTO, the Visual Studio tool set aimed specifically at Office developers is now available to manufacturing. Also on tap is a new release candidate of SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition (an embeddable client-side data base formerly available as a Community Technology Preview (CTP) known as SQL Server 2005 Everywhere Edition), and Beta 1 of Expression Web Designer, now known as Expression Web.

Dig Deeper on Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO)

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