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A few months ago, I published an opinion in Network World on the growing interest in a standards-based enriched-browsing approach called “AJAX” See http://www.networkworld.com/columnists/2005/042505kobielus.html
Soon thereafter, several rich Internet application (RIA) vendors e-mailed to protest that I had referred to their products/approaches as “partially proprietary.” I dealt with their objections one by one, citing chapter and verse from their various product whitepapers, marketing presentations, and so forth. I still stand by that statement.
One of those vendors also protested that AJAX isn’t on a functional par with his or his rivals’ RIA approaches. And I didn’t disagree with his statement, because I didn’t argue otherwise in my column. At least twice in that column I referred to AJAX as a “common denominator” approach that developers can use to put some rich browser-based interaction into their Web apps. The term “common denominator” should have clued the reader to the fact that they can get richer browsing functionality if they go with RIA products from Macromedia, Laszlo, Nexaweb, and other vendors. And from Microsoft too, whenever they ship Windows “Longhorn” with “Avalon” and “Atlas.”
To the RIA vendor who pointed out that AJAX isn’t up to functional par, I suggested that they might reposition their solutions as “AJAX++” (just as today’s RIA is effectively “DHTML++). He wasn’t too keen on that suggestion.
But it was a serious comment. Just as every MOM, EAI, and BPM vendor is repositioning their products under such nouveau buzzphrase approaches as “SOA” and “ESB,” today’s RIA vendors will increasingly need to position their approaches with respect to AJAX. And that’s for no other reason than the fact that the RIA paradigm has subtly shifted toward reliance on open universally deployed browsing standards and away from proprietary approaches. To the extent that AJAX (er…RIA) vendors can show that they are more standards-based than the next vendor, they’ll be providing developer/customers with reassurance that Web apps developed with their enriched browsing tools and executed on their server runtimes can be deployed out to the widest range of browser clients WITHOUT NEED FOR MUCH OR ANY PLUG-IN BROWSER FOOTPRINT.
Quite frankly, Microsoft will soon be able to demonstrate that it implements Ajax-enabling open standards (especially XAML) and requires no browser plug-in (because AJAX/Avalon/Atlas will be built into the basic OS). Also, they’ll have an embedded AJAX/RIA capability embedded in the world’s predominant OS.
So Microsoft, unless something radically changes the game, will own the AJAX/RIA/enriched browsing space by the end of this decade.