Recently I’ve been reading much about AJAX, treating pages as applications, rich interactivity, and hype about the top ten tools of Web 2. As long as these AJAX scripts are designed properly with accessibility in mind, they won’t be consigned to the bad old days of DHTML.
But in general, I agree that it’s true: many applications will sit on the Internet and various dumb and not so dumb boxes will hook to them. This is one of the reasons why Microsoft is hell bent making certain that as many boxes as possible run some form of Microsoft operating system. Some have said that the Internet swallows all operating systems and renders them irrelevant and perhaps there is some truth to this but as long as hardware still matters, business is going to fight over what runs on that hardware.
I have a theory that Microsoft doesn’t really care as much about it’s Web property as it could. Perhaps many might disagree with me but, I think Microsoft has never viewed itself as Yahoo, AOL or Google. It may make deals with other media companies and occasionally buy Web services, but this is really just insurance and leverage to keep others from muscling them off the desktop and out of the interface presented to average folks and their boxes. They may view Google desktop search as a threat but despite Steve Ballmer’s tantrums, I don’t think they’re really that worried. Watchful but not worried.
What I’m guessing is that Microsoft is now going to push very hard to get itself into as many non-computer boxes as possible. The XBox game console is one obvious example of this. Next is mobile phones–at least after mobile phones get as good as mobile phones are in Europe and Asia. They’ve tried several times (Exploratory attempts really.) to offer cable television services and hardware.
They may whine about Linux stealing market in servers but servers don’t really matter to average folks. Clients always vastly outnumber servers. As long as Microsoft can legally get as many of these clients as possible it doesn’t really matter if all the applications move to the Web. If it really gets that bad, they’ll just move MSOffice to a set of server applications which they may or may not offer for other Non-Microsoft server platforms.
In the past they’ve leveraged MSOffice to force people use their operating system or used their operating system force people to use MSOffice. If all major applications move to the Web, they’ll just move that leverage to the Web. The half-hearted attempts into Web services are really just ways to cover their bets. As long as they are number three as a portal site, they’re happy. If a serious threat emerges, they’ll use these hapless Web properties as the new lever and make certain that all new boxes (especially non-computer boxes) have links to these properties as default installations. They don’t care about power users that switch to Google or who decouple their mobile phones, they are just concerned with the naive masses.
Microsoft is playing nice now that they are losing developer share to Firefox. They’ll continue to play nice until that share is won back. They are old hands at this.