Recession is perhaps affecting the economy, but it couldn't be farther from the dazzling world of (Microsoft) software. CTPs are coming out every day and some of them are amazingly morphing into Betas. Which is anyway good. But when a technology turns of age becoming a Beta, you--the developer|architect|software engineer--are no longer authorized to ignore it with the abused excuse that it is only a CTP.
You can easily be flooded with technologies, frameworks, products, and also patterns and paradigms. This is especially true for the Web. Isn't AJAX representative of a "paradigm shift"? Paradigm shifts, though, are an extremely delicate event that occurred in the history of mankind quite a few times already. As emphatic as it may sound, the Web of today is just a special case. Search for "paradigm shift" on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradigm_shift). At some point, you'll read:
Paradigm shifts tend to be most dramatic in sciences that appear to be stable and mature, as in physics at the end of the 19th century. At that time, physics seemed to be a discipline filling in the last few details of a largely worked-out system. In 1900, Lord Kelvin famously stated, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." Five years later, Albert Einstein published his paper on special relativity, which challenged the very simple set of rules laid down by Newtonian mechanics, which had been used to describe force and motion for over three hundred years. In this case, the new paradigm reduces the old to a special case (Newtonian mechanics is an excellent approximation for speeds that are slow compared to the speed of light).
The Web is a science that before AJAX appeared stable and mature. AJAX is comparable to Einstein's relativity. It will take years to reach again some technological stability for the Web. Read, some set of frameworks and products that are widely accepted and not put under discussion every week by new CTPs and approaches.
Five years? Well, five years may be nothing compared to the mankind lifespan, but it's a lot of time in software, and for the Web in particular. Five years in software are more or less the equivalent of million years of earth life. And even more if you limit to consider the Web, which is only 20 years old.
AJAX has been a real paradigm shift whose effects--three years after its introduction--are only now starting to become stabler. I have a lot of hopes and expectation from MS and the ASP.NET team in sight of ASP.NET 4.0. I expect it to be built with AJAX in mind from the grounds up, incorporating common Web and AJAX patterns in a brand new set of controls and components.
Oh yes, but I started this post with the concept of "driving force" in mind. How can you find orientation in a world full of CTPs? Like many of you, I can't just keep up with everything that is coming out. So I find it useful to identify the "driving force" of each new thing from Microsoft and see whether it cares me to a decent extent. Today here at DevConnections, Orlando, I finally identified the driving force of a buzzword that hit me recently.
ADO.NET Data Services (aka, Astoria)
Driving force: the need of building richly interactive Web systems.
What's that in abstract: New set of tools for building a middle-tier or, better yet, the service layer on top of a middle-tier in any sort of application, including enterprise class applications.
What's that in concrete: provides you with URLs to invoke from hyperlinks to bring data down to the client. Better for scenarios where a client needs a direct|partially filtered access to data. Not ideal for querying data from IE, but ideal for building a new generation of Web controls that breath AJAX. And just that.
I'm going to apply the "Driving force" pattern to virtually any CTP or buzzword that I happen to hear about. Next one is M-V-VM pattern for WPF (and Silverlight). And next, of course, the ASP.NET MVC FX. Stay tuned.