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Another Belated Microsoft Memo 232

Posted by Zonk
from the better-late-than-never dept.
fiannaFailMan writes "Bill Gates has sent out another memo heralding the latest big development in the industry, as he sees it. This time it's web-based software using technology such as AJAX (that MS 'invented but failed to exploit'). The Economist says 'As in previous cases, what is new is not the idea itself, but the fact that Microsoft is taking it seriously.' Zach Nelson of NetSuite decided against writing a memo. 'Writing memos is cheap,' he says, whereas 'writing software is a whole lot harder.'"
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Another Belated Microsoft Memo

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  • Who owns it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:30PM (#14067865)
    So does Microsoft have a patent on AJAX? Can they leverage their parenting of the technology to stifle progress once again? Who owns AJAX?
  • Web 2.0? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stevyn (691306) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:31PM (#14067875)
    That has to be the worst idea to come out of a marketing drone since synergistic paradigm. At least Microsoft is actually working on new stuff lately. Google and Firefox have urged them to restart their old habits of copying that we haven't seen since the mid nineties.
  • Re:AJAX and Comet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gbrandt (113294) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:43PM (#14067938)
    Surprisingly the bar is raising up to a point where web developers may have to think like software developers.

    Thats the scary part...

    Gregor
  • Re:AJAX and Comet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Now.Imperfect (917684) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:49PM (#14067977) Homepage
    I encounter the same problem. There is so much out there that it can be frustrating for a web developer.

    Personally I felt that age of simple web pages slipped away when javascript started becoming popular.

    Now to be a web developer its gotten to the point that its difficult to know fewer than 3-4 languages. And its nearly on par with desktop development; but soon will be the day when desktop and internet will be seamless.
  • Re:Who owns it? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:51PM (#14067984)
    FAT16 vs. camera builders.
  • Re:AJAX and Comet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by imidan (559239) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:52PM (#14067989)
    I've been having discussions about that in my job recently. With AJAX as the new web development buzzword, people are coming to me and asking if we can put AJAX into every project. A lot of the web-based applications that I work on would not benefit from asynchronous communication--they really work best using the traditional synchronous request/response model.

    But I've implemented a few shiny upgrades to older web apps that we run, and people love 'em, and want AJAX in everything. There are a few applications that we maintain that make significant use of JavaScript, and people want to 'upgrade' the JS to AJAX. I've explained over and over again that AJAX is just a particular thing that you can do with JS, it's not something that you replace JS with.

    AJAX is a really cool development method, but it's like any other tool--there are certain situations where it helps, and others where you just don't need it.

  • Re:Just imagine... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ergo98 (9391) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:55PM (#14068002) Homepage Journal
    Just imagine how powerful and profitable Microsoft would be if they weren't always five years late to the party.

    Just imagine how...status quo or diminished...Microsoft would be if they weren't intentionally five years late to the party. Seriously.

    5 or 6 years ago Microsoft was hugely pushing a lot of very advanced web technologies, including remote scripting, behaviours, client-side XML data islands and heavily programmatically controllable transformations, and even the much-maligned ActiveX. These enabled some remarkable web applications (ActiveX, for instance, allowed you to have auto-updating rich client on the desktop, but retaining all of the advantages of the document model of HTML).

    It really was a fantastic platform that they created, and they were light years ahead of everyone else. Of course it was entirely tied to Microsoft's platform and browser, which was why you didn't see it much on public websites, but for internal teams that were up on their chops (most aren't, unfortunately), there were some amazing solutions created.

    However Microsoft has a so-called-problem that shops like Salesforce don't - they are pulling in billions upon billions a year from their, err, "legacy" products, and often they're their own biggest competitor. The last thing they want to do is pull the carpet out from under their cash cows and enter into a new competition as a new entrant of sorts, eliminating a huge source of income, and a competitive advantage. It's for this reason that the IE team was disbanded years ago, after they shot far ahead of everyone else.

    The revisionist history where people imagine that Microsoft is behind because they're just not as advanced as their competitors really is laughable. Microsoft was a mile ahead and then decided they really wanted to run the 20K instead of the 100m.
  • Conflict (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kosmosik (654958) <kos@@@kosmosik...net> on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:57PM (#14068011) Homepage
    But with this web-based/AJAX thingies it is a bit a conflict of interest for Microsoft. MS desperately tries to jump onto the services band-wagon. But the truth is that their main revenue comes from shrink-wrapped software (like Windows or Office). They *try* to laverage that to other areas but they fail miserably.

    Take MS vs. Google. Now Google still IMHO does everything before MS, and then MS goes "me too" and issues something similar but yet worse than Google offering. In normal situation - meaning MS has no money to pump from OS/software revenue into new markets they would not get a chance against Google - they will simply bankrupt. Right now they pump the money but I doubt they get any revenue (even to go on zero line) from their web services.

    Now as far as I understand they wan't to couple web-based software (more like service) with shrink-wrappedsoftware like Windows and Office. I base that on various interviews with MS execs about MS product line I've read. But this is like flawed idea from the begining. The most valuable part (IMHO) about web software is that it only needs a browser and server infrastructure on the other end. So in fact you do not need to pay any special attention to the client side (as you would have to with shrink-wrapped software). So for e.g. you could have a big extranet with 5000 clients across the world, using one sophisticated application by web and only thing you need is decent server architecture and on client side - commodity: standard browser running on any OS, maybe a printer or smth. to get the job done.

    This is completely the opposite of having fat clients loaded with bloated OS and software suites - the MS way.

    So I see a conflict here.
  • by Coopjust (872796) on Friday November 18, 2005 @08:58PM (#14068016)
    AJAX is a good idea for larger services, like Gmail, that many people use and it is completely seamless. However, AJAX is much harder to code, and it's not necessary for a smaller company, which doesn't need the marginal gains vs. the coding. Still, for a large company like Google, it takes less time to load (which makes Gmail seem better) and also saves bandwidth.
  • Re:AJAX and Comet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Brandybuck (704397) on Friday November 18, 2005 @09:11PM (#14068068) Homepage Journal
    Soon, EVERY web app will need to be an AJAX app...even if it doesn't need to be.

    As a user who has had to endure every application being a web application, even if it never needed to be, you're not going to get my sympathy. You're part of the group that created this problem.

    I've got no problem with distributed applications, but the idea that everything should be HTML/CSS/Javascript sitting in front of a database is just wrong.
  • Re:Just imagine... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Friday November 18, 2005 @09:12PM (#14068074)

    The revisionist history where people imagine that Microsoft is behind because they're just not as advanced as their competitors really is laughable.

    Er, "behind" and "less advanced" are synonymous.

    Microsoft was a mile ahead and then decided they really wanted to run the 20K instead of the 100m.

    If anything that's backwards. Microsoft sprinted to get halfway decent Javascript and XML support, and then decided they'd won the race and stopped dead. There hasn't been an Internet Explorer rendering engine update for over four years now.

    Meanwhile, Gecko/Presto/KHTML have made steady progress and had the majority of the capabilities of what will be in Internet Explorer 7 years ago. Microsoft have acted like the hare racing against the tortoise - arrogant enough not to take the competition seriously, and have been overtaken while they weren't looking.

  • Re:AJAX and Comet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LDoggg_ (659725) on Friday November 18, 2005 @09:35PM (#14068162) Homepage
    Would be interesting to see slashdot with a new ajax-based comment view.
    Right now they have flat, nested, no comments, and threaded.

    Take something like threaded, then instead of refreshing the whole page when you drill down, just the pull down the comments for that thread.
  • I hate AJAX (Score:4, Interesting)

    by barfy (256323) on Friday November 18, 2005 @09:44PM (#14068194)
    What was a nice thing for solving problems otherwise difficult to solve, has turned into something that is making my expensive computer grind to a halt. Currently no browser likes to have multiple commercial pages open at the same time (which is how I often browse). Everybody from the content hoster, the ad folks, the editorial, and design folks gotta have some Ajax running. VERY VERY little does anything useful from either a UI or Content view, but in the end makes browsing slower, makes my computer slower, and makes me hate the F77ck3rs who think Ajax is cool. I hope this comes to a quick near death like when Java was cool.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2005 @10:06PM (#14068262)
    What a nonsense.
    Even further, they don't even support it correctly. XmlHttpRequest is a standard object in E4X (an ECMA standard), but IE supports it only via an ActiveX Object instance.
  • Re:AJAX and Comet (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2005 @10:08PM (#14068266)
    Kinda like saying Amish home builders are going to have to start thinking like architects.

    They can try, but they aren't erecting any sky-scrapers just by thinking differently.
  • Writing code.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KJE (640748) <ken@kje.ca> on Friday November 18, 2005 @10:10PM (#14068269) Homepage
    After you said that writing code is a whole lot harder than writing a memo, I got to thinking: When was the last time Bill Gates coded anything? I mean I was just wondering. For all the supposedly evil things his company has done, albeit with him at the helm, he started out as a geek. Geeks like to do geeking things, I don't care how old you are... what do you think he's done recently?
  • Re:AJAX and Comet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tatarize (682683) on Friday November 18, 2005 @10:35PM (#14068341) Homepage
    Yeah, honestly it is rather annoying to have to learn so many languages. I wrote an AJAX Chat program the other day, I needed HTML, javascript, PHP, mySQL and really should toss in some CSS. It took half the day to get it working in a very basic sense. I honestly didn't think about it once as a web development problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2005 @10:43PM (#14068369)
    Java applets have all the user interface/networking capabilities that AJAX has and some more.

    I think that Sun missed the boat on this one. Instead of working on a lightweight JVM for every platform, they kept bloating the language and the implementation. I don't see many Java applets anymore, it's mostly Flash and now AJAX.
  • Re:I thank M$ (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv D ... neverbox DOT com> on Friday November 18, 2005 @11:09PM (#14068469) Homepage
    Yes, that actually was an innovation...except that it required all sort of proprietary stuff.

    As the major advantage of 'AJAX' is that doesn't need that stuff, I guess you could say they invented AJAX...except for the actually useful part of it working cross-platform and transparently. Because of this rather obvious limitation, it failed to actually be used anywhere except intranets.

    Part of this wasn't MS's fault, as it was pre-standard DOM, IIRC.

    Any idiot can create interesting web technology that operates within a single browser. The power of AJAX is that libraries let it transparently Just Work, to steal an MS slogan.

    And once Javascript got standardized enough that you could replace parts of the webpage live, on any browser (Giving us dHTML), the 'And we can edit the page with data from the server' is not an incredibly large conceptual leap. All major browsers, at that point, had some sort of XML parsing support inside their Javascript, so the obvious idea that you give out the same XML to any client, and rely on their Javascript to parse it, was also rather obvious.

    In sort, I don't think AJAX really was any sort of innovation. It's just cross-platform DHTML with an XML data channel. Pretending MS invented it five years ago is ignoring the 'cross-platform dHTML' part.

  • Re:Who owns it? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @01:53AM (#14069177)
    FAT is no longer used for serious hard drive storage, so it has nothing to do with ext3, etc. It is now a common interchange standard for peripheral devices like cameras and thumb drives. By attempting to institute a tax on a previously-considered-free standard at this late date, they are impeding progress in the peripheral hardware area.

    BTW, the utility of this patent has to do with backwards compatibility with OSes that only understand the 8.3 file format, which nobody gives a shit about anymore. However, the particular way that long filenames are kludged into VFAT are now cast in concrete, and any implementation is stuck infringing the patent claims regardless of whether anybody will ever access the 8.3 filenames. In other words, the patent no longer has any valid technical use other than creating market barriers and collecting licensing revenue.

  • Re:AJAX and Comet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hosiah (849792) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @03:54AM (#14069492)
    Now to be a web developer its gotten to the point that its difficult to know fewer than 3-4 languages.

    Now that goes right to the heart of why I hate web development. Each of the languages of web design are poky little scriptlets, weak beyond belief, so that to actually *do* something, you need three or four just to get you through it. It's really saying something when you needed four languages to design the page that your web browser displays, but you only needed one to write the web browser itself.

    The web needs to be torn down and rewritten from scratch. Start with ONE language that does EVERYTHING, all with the SAME SYNTAX ON EVERY LINE. Not doing this part with a C-style curly brace here, and that part with an HTML-style angle-bracket there, and using twenty different commands in ten different dialects to do the same thing. Web source is starting to look like Perl on acid.

  • constantly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by idlake (850372) on Saturday November 19, 2005 @04:58AM (#14069613)
    Microsoft's patents on the C#/.NET APIs have already greatly stifled progress. If Microsoft didn't have those patents, Mono would likely be far more widely used on Linux. It has taken a lot of work to determine that those patents are likely not relevant or enforceable, and nevertheless they still have a bad PR effect for Mono.

    In general, merely having a patent stifles progress and is an anti-competitive practice because it forces competitors to work around it, in particular given that Microsoft has threatened to enforce its portfolio and clearly has the means to do it.

    Microsoft also uses its patent portfolio to negotiate patent cross licensing agreements and they use patents in the negotiation of individual business deals. And Microsoft uses patents to threaten countersuits when they are threatened with a legitimate patent lawsuit, usually resulting in a cross licensing deal and settlement.

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