Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and other Microsoft executives apologized
yesterday for not upgrading Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) sooner or
more frequently, but promised that future upgrades would come more
quickly. The comments came at the MIX 06 conference, which is aimed at
Web developers. Microsoft also issued a new refresh build of IE 7 and
other Web-related technologies on Monday.

"Hey, we waited too long for a browser release," Gates said during his
keynote address at the show. "We will be able to \[release\] a browser
much faster than the typical major Windows release cycle. We're already
working on the next two releases. And so you can expect to see us
moving very, very rapidly there because we see great opportunities ...
the key point I want to make is that IE 7 is not the end of the line."

Gates showed off IE 7 and focused on the product's new UI, security
features, and developer-oriented platform capabilities, which include
support for technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS),
transparent Portable Network Graphics (PNG) images, XML, and Really
Simple Syndication (RSS).

Gates also spoke highly of an emerging Web technology called Ajax
(Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), which helps developers create Web
sites and applications that closely resemble and function like Windows-
based desktop applications. Microsoft was an early pioneer in Ajax,
having used it for such applications as Outlook Web Access (OWA), and
most of the Windows Live services are now utilizing the technology as
well. Microsoft showed off a beta version of a product code-named
Atlas, which will allow developers to create their own Ajax-based
solutions, which run on Microsoft's ASP .NET server platform. The
company is also offering this beta to the public. (See URL below.)

To highlight Ajax, Gates brought MySpace.com CTO Aber Whitcom onstage
to demonstrate how his company's 65 million registered members access
an Ajax-based Web application that is built on ASP .NET 2.0 and SQL
Server 2005. MySpace.com has been termed a social networking site. It's
an online meeting place where friends can interact, share information,
buy and sell goods, and perform other tasks virtually that previously
required face-to-face meetings.

Gates also introduced British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Director
of New Media and Technology Ashley Highfield, who showed off a BBC
gadget running on Windows Vista. The gadget allows users to search for
popular BBC programming such as "Black Adder" and "The Office" and view
clips or even entire episodes.

What all of this means for Windows users is that the line between
desktop applications and Web-based applications and services is
continuing to blur. Hopefully, Microsoft will learn from its past
mistakes and allow consumers and Web developers to decide which Web
products to embrace.

ASP.NET "Atlas" March Community Technology Preview (Microsoft)