Microsoft has unveiled its ASP.Net Ajax 1.0 development tool, providing a graphical user interface for developers to create Web applications based on the Ajax programming technique.
The company touted the tool as a solution for enterprise developers wishing to build online applications while using tools that integrate with the familiar Visual Studio.Net development kit.
"You do not have to buy new tools or learn new programming techniques," claimed Keith Smith, a group programme manager at Microsoft's web platform and tools group.
The software is available as a free download, and Microsoft offers support services at a fee.
The development tool also ties into Microsoft's ASP.Net control toolkit, a so-called 'shared source' project that provides developers with ready-made application building blocks for use inside their applications.
Each control is certified to work on all major browsers including Firefox and Opera.
The controls allow for expandable items on a page, 3D animations or auto-complete services that pre-populate data entry fields based on a server hosted dictionary.
Developers can access the source code for each control and can distribute the code free of charge.
Microsoft's Ajax tool comes at a time when enterprises are ramping up their use of the web development technique, sparking a market for commercial developer tools.
The Ajax tool market is currently dominated by a number of smaller vendors such as Backbase, as well as open source projects including the Dojo Web Toolkit currently under development with backing from vendors including AOL, IBM and Sun.
Google launched the Google Web Toolkit in May, allowing developers to transform Java applications into Ajax code. The toolkit was released in December under an open source licence.
Smith touted Microsoft's technical support as a main advantage over competing offerings, in addition to the similarities with the company's other development tools.
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