The End is Near II

Jon Udell and I have agreed to diagree . But the End is Near.

Jons articles and insights at Infoworld are, along with Ephraim Schwartz and Tom Yager, the primary reason I return to the website for IT information. Jon has been doing a series of articles on browsers, GUI, and he calls it orchestration. I call it scripting and plumbing. The basic idea is that both local applications and remote services need to be tied together more often in our current world of n-tier, hetrogeneous, distributed processing. AJAX is a series of solutions in PC to Web space interfacing. But also there is PC to Mobile or Embedded Devices through direct or Web Space channels, Server to Server again through direct connections or Web Space channels. A common scripting language is going to be needed for these various interfaces.

This is what I omitted in my first the End is Near article. The fact that the IT world needs not only standards but also a standard scripting language (read orchestrator in Jon-speak) that can operate across diverse platforms, devices, and operating systems. This scripting language is going to need to be platform neutral, OS neutral, and open and even defacto standards promiscuous . But in embracing defacto it must be without compromise. There is a danger of backdoor proprietary as vendors emulate and expand/extend the functionality of the standard in proprietary ways. Then withdraw or curtail support of the standard in favor of their proprietary solutions. Sound like JScript, J++, and C# to you ? It should – this is the crux of the embrace and extend strategy oft repeated by Redmond.

Now I am definitely not being unfair to Redmond. They have avowed to make everything run best in Windows and accordingly they develop for only one OS environ (Mac Office being the major exception). This is what Microsoft product managers identify as their winning strategy. Not having to develop for cross platform usage allows them to focus on making their products better than the competition. But beyond the “our focus on Windows allows us to beat you”, Redmond has taken the “lets tilt the playing field to our advantage” approach as well. Embracing and extending standards is one approach (just do a Google: Microsoft embrace extend standards). But stall and thwart is another. With its 80%++ browser marketshare and 90%++ desktop marketshare, Microsoft has been the gatekeeper on what innovations and standards will be allowed to pass and prosper in both the browser and PC marketplace.

One more time, lets see what the record is on Redmonds browser gatekeeping:
-Microsoft is 6 years late and counting on promised implementation of W3C CSS, DOM, and JavaScript standards;
-Microsoft has rejected implementing SVG, MathML, XForms, and XPath 2 standards in IE;
-Microsoft has said it accepts JavaScript E4X, XSLT, and standards but has not implemented any in IE;
-Microsoft has resisted any attempts to rationalize or extend DOM standards for a variety of functionality and purposes;
-Microsoft has delayed and stalled on IEs use of PNG and JPEG2000 standards despite broad acceptance in Graphics industry;
-Microsoft has nothing about new standards such W3Cs REX-Remote Events for XML or a part in MWI Mobile Web Initiative.
And this is the only a partial list of what can only be identified as a deliberate campaign by Redmond to stall and thwart Web standards. After all, they are trying to sell the idea of ” it all runs best in Windows”. Cant have Google and others showing you the Web interface works well too.

Now Jon has implied but not explicitly stated this thwarting of Web progress by Microsoft exists. But you hardly need to do more than look at the record on IE itself. Microsoft has not updated IE since 2000 except strictly for security updates. Given that in the interim the Web has driven IT development, this stalling by Redmond has created a huge logjam around the Web browser and Web interface. This works to one major vendors advantage – Microsoft. Redmond is trying to sell the idea that the Smart PC Client can do much that AJAX and Web based apps now do.

Jons Hope

So Jons call for an evolution in browser orchestration/scripting capabilities goes up against the harsh reality of Microsoft resistance to Web development and particularly cross platform scripting or language capabilities. For example, Microsoft continues to pollute Java in the Windows server and PC with three versions of Java(J++, J#, and C#) plus paying $2B to Sun for the rights to distribute a hopelessly outmoded version of the JVM with every copy of Windows through 2007. Here is what Jon has to say about the orchestration/scripting opportunities:
“Second, I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of the kinds of advanced Web standards that can make this stuff really sing. The latest W3C APIs all worked well in Firefox 1.0, and they work even better in 1.5. Meanwhile the once-frozen Internet Explorer has thawed and is on the move again. I don’t know how far Microsoft will allow IE to go, but the Windows Live initiative gives me hope that the full power of the standards-based Web client may yet be unleashed.”

I am not so sanguine. Beating by Machiavellian cheating is too far ingrained in the Microsoft DNA. They call it “playng hardball”. The only thing that got IE7 to move towards standards and much improved security is the beating it is taking from FireFox and others in the marketplace(my latest website numbers are IE=59%, Firefox/Gecko=28%, Other browser/agents=13%). But we shall see for the End is Near on the uncertainty of what Microsoft plans to do on implementation of Web standards.

By late fall this year Vista will be out and IE7 will be on board. Also The Quartz Web development tool will be out as will be the Atlas framework in Visual Studio. There will be no more ambiguity or “we shall try to meet standards”. My guess is the points I have made above on Microsoft falling way short of Web standards will hold pat. Jon will be disappointed again – but not entirely surprised. And the Web community will have to face the tough question of how to rein in a seriously rogue player, Microsoft – the Iran of defiance of Web standards.

Fortunately, the Web and IT community do hold some potentially compelling cards of their own. This is the topic of the forthcoming The End is Near III.

(c)JBSurveyer 2006