Along with my use of the word "byte code" earlier, I put "I believe". That's my ignorance of terminology in lower level languages. For byte code, please replace with the correct term for your respective langauge.
Regarding the compilation question, ASP.NET code is compiled into native binary. It's first compiled into IL (Intermediate Language), not machine code. The output from the compilers (csc.exe, vbc.exe etc.) is in IL. However, this IL is JIT compiled into machine code before execution. That is, the IL isn't interpreted; it isn't converted to byte code (like Java) or p-code (like VB6); it's compiled into native machine code then executed. Probably the critical difference between the JVM and .NET's CLR is that the CLR compiles into native code.
Just like ASP v3.0. Also ASP.NET, C#, J# and the rest are also interpreted languages.
PHP is an interpreted language; every time a page is requested the script must be interpreted (effectively the page is opened, parsed, and compiled on every access).
Zend built in the "Optimizer" into the C++ code behind PHP 4, to which the Accelerator hooks. In terms of what is does, the steps are still exactly the same as .NET - the Accelerator caches an "interpreted" version of the script in it's own "intermediate langauge" and JIT compliles as well, before execution.
The PHP Accelerator works by caching the compiled version on disk (and in memory I believe?) and using that for future requests.
In the strictest sense, neither is storing (caching) "real" binaries, because a "real" binary has already had all compiling performed it and can be simple "run" without any intermediate steps.
Both are using a layer which sits between them and the operating system, and when you really think about it, you'll see there's only one solution to this problem, which they've both adopted. The nature of the solution is what makes the end result, this "5x peformanace boost" the same for both - that's no coincidence.
They are in many ways equal technologies. The difference is the fine print. And as to people slamming .NET, I've seen just as many claims to the effect "PHP is dead. Long live .NET".
As far as the original post goes, anyone who claims .NET is better than PHP (or vice versa) without giving good reason isn't making much of a point. Unfortunately, from what I've read these last few weeks on the forums, there seem to be more people slamming .NET without knowing what they're talking about than the other way round.