Microsoft Kicks Off MIX 06 with 'Atlas'

Microsoft's MIX 06 conference in Las Vegas got underway Monday morning with Bill Gates using the opening keynote to highlight his company's renewed investment in the Web through development of new technologies and programs. At center stage was "Atlas," a new tool that simplifies the creation of AJAX-enabled sites using ASP 2.0.

The first public build of Atlas was delivered at PDC 2005 last year, and Microsoft made available a March CTP of Atlas on Monday. The latest release includes a "go-live license," which means developers can take into production their Atlas based applications and solutions.

"Despite AJAX getting headlines, it's not clear how many developers are actually using it," Tim O'Brien, group manager with platform strategy group, told BetaNews. "The real value of Atlas is extracting away all that complexity to make it very easy."


Indeed, Microsoft has long supported components of AJAX, or Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, within Internet Explorer dating back to its adoption of JScript, DHTML and XMLHTTP. But development using the AJAX approach has consisted of intensive scripting and what Microsoft deems as cobbling together of complementary technologies.

In addition, AJAX is beginning to gain traction in the enterprise and among leaders in the Internet space, O'Brien said, including Google, Amazon, Yahoo and Microsoft itself. At MIX 06, Microsoft has invited a number of these other companies; roughly half of the speakers are not Redmond employees.

"We think a lot of the discussion in the industry today is focused on the technology coolness and less on the business relevance," O'Brien said, noting that this is what differentiates MIX from other Web 2.0 conferences. "We're seeing the huge confluence of early adopter technologies like AJAX poised for broad business adoption."

The idea for hosting MIX has been a long time coming for Microsoft. The company began talking to Web developers starting with PDC 2003 and the introduction of XAML. "We conceived mix as a means to which we bring all these pieces together, while reaching out to this joint community of developers and designers," O'Brien explained.

Aside from Atlas, Microsoft issued a new "layout complete" build of Internet Explorer 7, along with a new build of Windows Live Messenger. Developers can test their sites and Web applications with this IE7 release without having to worry about rendering engine changes before the browser's release, O'Brien explained.

Although Microsoft expects the "conversation" to continue as this new generation of Web development tools and technologies emerge, the company is not planning another conference. Still, MIX has been a large endeavor for Microsoft, O'Brien said, with over 50 sessions and 30 hands-on labs.

"It's one of the largest Web conferences around," he noted. "We want attendees to walk away with a sense of our commitment to the Web platform and the Web space."

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