Is Microsoft Really Validating Ajax? - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
Commentary
4/3/2007
01:54 PM
Nelson King
Nelson King
Commentary
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Is Microsoft Really Validating Ajax?

Last month, Microsoft announced it had joined OpenAjax. When I read this tidbit, my first thought was "what else was there to do?" Then I asked myself, does this mean Microsoft is validating the Ajax juggernaut? Is this a symbolic milestone in the transition out of the hype phase for one of Web 2.0's leading elements? I suspect a number of IT managers might have similar questions.

Last May, Rod Smith, VP of Internet Technologies at IBM invited Microsoft to join OpenAjax, the Ajax standardization consortium, saying, "I hope what comes out is the same as what came out of the early Web services meetings" -- meetings in which IBM, Microsoft and others drew up an early blueprint for Web services standards. In this case, about nine months of internal debate later, Microsoft opted to join OpenAjax. Here's last month's announcement by Microsoft's Scott Guthrie.When I read this tidbit, my first thought was "what else was there to do?" Then I asked myself, does this mean Microsoft is validating the Ajax juggernaut? Is this a symbolic milestone in the transition out of the hype phase for one of Web 2.0's leading elements? I suspect a number of IT managers might have similar questions. It's not that anybody is keeping score on who's supporting Ajax, or not; but from an enterprise IT point of view, the decision on how deeply to jump into a new technology may be conditioned by the companies it keeps.

I have a feeling that Microsoft was (and is) groping its way toward dealing with Ajax in much the same way as other large enterprise shops: One part skepticism, one part resignation, one part enthusiasm, one part opportunism-probably lots of other parts, all represented by people or factions within the development organization. Lots of voices singing different parts and not always in harmony.

For Microsoft, Ajax has been a pimple on the elephant's ass almost from the beginning. Yes, Microsoft had a hand in some key components of Ajax. Yes, Microsoft has long understood that traditional HTML applications suck. But for a while the rampant interest in Ajax seemed to take Microsoft by surprise. The attitude seemed to be, 'Well XMLhttprequest is our contribution and sure we've been using elements of Ajax forever, but we've never considered it all that important. Our world is a lot bigger than Ajax.'

This is still true, especially when considering Microsoft's positioning of Visual Studio .NET against Java and Eclipse, or the upcoming square-off with Adobe using developments in Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). For more than a decade Bill Gates used the word 'rich' for almost every Microsoft application, and the Rich Internet Application (RIA) is a piece of turf with a clutch of Microsoft markers to stick in it. ASP.NET 2.0 AJAX Extensions is just one of those markers. When it comes to Ajax, I think how Microsoft deals with JavaScript is the indicator to watch on how well Ajax works, or doesn't work, within the grand framework of Microsoft servers and development software. But that's a story for another blog, or two, or more…

I'm not going to be a cheerleader for Ajax or even for rich internet applications because good user interfaces are sufficiently seductive in their own right. I think enterprise IT people know that a good user interface is important. But so are good database connections. So is security. So is effective implementation of business rules. Among other things and other contexts.

As this is a new blog on the Intelligent Enterprise Blogosphere, I'll try to define it by keeping an eye on Web 2.0 technologies as they relate to enterprise software. Rooting and snorting among the information bins of the IT industry can produce less than obvious insights-something I've been committed to doing for almost thirty years.

Nelson King has been a software developer for more than twenty-five years. Further complications include being a computer-industry analyst, product reviewer and author (of nine books on database programming). He's been writing for Intelligent Enterprise (and its precursors) for more than ten years. Write him at [email protected]Last month, Microsoft announced it had joined OpenAjax. When I read this tidbit, my first thought was "what else was there to do?" Then I asked myself, does this mean Microsoft is validating the Ajax juggernaut? Is this a symbolic milestone in the transition out of the hype phase for one of Web 2.0's leading elements? I suspect a number of IT managers might have similar questions.

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