Microsoft’s Pitching, Anybody Want to Play Catcher?

And here’s the windup.

Or to use the usual metaphor, so begins the Microsoftian Embrace of AJAX, a technology that makes rich cross-platform, cross-browser applications possible–like Google’s Gmail. Pucker your cheeks, because I think nobody at this point doubts that their nifty little toolkit will come with some rather stiff extensions aimed at “filling a hole” and injecting Windows IE-only solutions.

And a thousand clueless noobs will start designing a whole new set of IE-only interfaces because they’re not smart enough to do otherwise.

But it’s not an abuse of a monopoly, oh, no.

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4 Responses to Microsoft’s Pitching, Anybody Want to Play Catcher?

  1. Um… Microsoft *invented* AJAX. Or rather, they invented (in 1999, no less, with the launch of IE5) the non-standard XMLHTTPRequest object in Javascript that is central to what has been so successfully branded as “AJAX”.

    Other browsers have followed suit with similar interfaces, but they use a different API so it’s a reach to call AJAX apps “cross-platform, cross-browser”. You have to start your app with script to sniff out which browser you’re serving to and use the appropriate XMLHTTPRequest-style object. And browsers which lack an implementation of XMLHTTPRequest (i.e. any browser other than IE, Mozilla, and Safari) are SOL.

    Note that the first serious system to use XMLHTTPRequest, Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access, completely loses all its rich functionality in any browser other than IE and turns into a pretty basic Webmail interface. Google took the time to script around the varying browser interfaces so GMail is functional in Mozilla and Safari, but that just points out how non-standard XMLHTTPRequest currently is.

    AJAX is not in danger of becoming non-standard, it has been non-standard since birth (which is why nobody but MS developers used it until Google and Adaptive Path made it buzzworthy). Maybe if we’re lucky the various browsers will converge on a standard interface to XMLHTTPRequest, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  2. Sandy says:

    Well, my understanding of AJAX is that it consists of using a combination of an XMLHTTPRequest-like object and per-id CSS addressing, among other things.

    There are attempts at standards in the works, BTW. However, the timing looks suspicious. Remember also that there are things that a monopoly can’t do that a non-monopoly can.

  3. Sure, but I thought you were all for vendors pushing out ahead of the standards bodies to provide new functionality?

    That’s what MS did with XMLHTTPRequest. Are you saying that they should have put it through the standards process first? If not, should they have refrained from releasing it at all — or been restrained from doing so by the government, given their monopoly position?

    If none of the above, why the anger at MS? Is there another course they could have taken? Remember the technology has been sitting practically unused in IE for six years, so it’s not like they’re pushing it down anyone’s throat.

    I would similarly chalk the timing of their interest in AJAX up more to it suddenly being buzzworthy than to any dark conspiracy.

  4. Sandy says:

    It’s no longer anger at this point, at least not at MS. A little at the tools who drool along with MS, but even that is pretty expected. No, at this point it’s just bitter cynicism because Microsoft just does this sort of thing. I remind you of their history. That’s pretty much justification enough.

    Again, there are things you can do as a non-monopoly that you can’t do as a monopoly.

    As to innovation, you’ll notice I never complained about their innovation the first time. However, now that it’s popular, there is a standardization effort (which is what should follow innovation), and now that Google has embraced it–well, suddenly they Embrace it. Sure it may just be that they thought it was cool and wanted to ride the wave–but they can’t seem to avoid thinking in the EEE pattern even when it doesn’t behoove them. It’s just part of MS culture, the way that Apple does Apple-only innovations as part of their culture, but had to learn the hard way to adapt to a heterogeneous world.

    Apple may find the same things out if a judge decides they have a monopoly on portable MP3 players. Then they’ll have to be very circumspect about what they do with iTunes.

    MS could be a great company (in stature as well as bulk) if they thought more about innovation beyond just the lab and less about strategic tinkering just to screw the other guy.

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