Software // Enterprise Applications
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5/30/2007
09:08 AM
Nelson King
Nelson King
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Ajax Versus Silverlight, JavaFX and Flash/Flex

I've noticed that spokespeople for Microsoft, Sun and Adobe tend to gingerly disparage Ajax… It doesn't fit their model: proprietary delivery methods (runtime clients, graphics engines), proprietary or semi-proprietary development tools-their own solutions for overcoming the deficiencies of HTTP Web applications… It pains them that Ajax is so popular. They have to deal with it, treat it with kid gloves, even support it; but they don't like it.

I've noticed, and perhaps you have too, that spokespeople for Microsoft, Sun and Adobe have a tendency to gingerly disparage Ajax. Conversations with them have a lot of "We like this/that about Ajax, but…" For their respective companies, Ajax is the classic "bag on the side." It doesn't fit their model: proprietary delivery methods (runtime clients, graphics engines), proprietary or semi-proprietary development tools-their own solutions for overcoming the deficiencies of HTTP Web applications. Although they rarely say so, it pains them that Ajax is so popular. They have to deal with it, treat it with kid gloves, even support it; but they don't like it.I think of Ajax tools as something we have now, ready to go to work and do things that HTTP can't do. In a way, it's like PHP, Perle and other tools that overcome Web limitations. You don't need a proprietary graphics engine, or fancy IDE or whatever. The developer selects the toolkit and often opts for more basic tools that get closer to the metal. Sure it's more demanding than having a paint-by-the-numbers IDE to develop an application, but in the hands of diligent people it also provides more control and (often) better results. A lot of the snazzy RIAs (Rich Internet Applications) from Google and others are the result of using Ajax in this way.

One of the strengths of Ajax is an attitude that often comes with it: "Make the user experience better." A first corollary to this attitude is: "Make Web applications have the same or better user experience as desktop applications." A second corollary is: "Make the applications stronger by having Web 2.0 characteristics," (which I would interpret as including greater levels of user interaction, social networking, communications, presence management…etc.)

Of course, Microsoft, Sun and Adobe all say that they want these things too; and they do. But as we learn more about their product directions for Silverlight, JavaFX, and Apollo we find strong undercurrents that indicate origins are determining directions (phylogeny determines ontogeny). With JavaFX, Sun is shaping and defending Java and its Java Runtime Environment (JRE). With Silverlight, Microsoft is staking out streaming media (read: Hollywood, TV, the Hit Parade) that Bill Gates began courting many years ago. And Adobe remains close to its graphics orientation, which has been its ace-card since the git-go.

There's nothing inherently wrong or bad about sticking with the partner that brought you to the dance; but there is a temptation to dress up the partner to look like something it is not. JavaFX is not a streaming-media or graphics-oriented system, at least not yet. Silverlight is not a "business data" oriented application development system. None of the products, so far, are comprehensive "Web 2.0 tools" (however that may be defined).

This makes room for Ajax and the hordes of toolmakers, open source workers and creative developers who are expanding its capabilities. This is a favorable and optimistic view of Ajax, but unfortunately not the whole story… a story for another blog.I've noticed that spokespeople for Microsoft, Sun and Adobe tend to gingerly disparage Ajax… It doesn't fit their model: proprietary delivery methods (runtime clients, graphics engines), proprietary or semi-proprietary development tools-their own solutions for overcoming the deficiencies of HTTP Web applications… It pains them that Ajax is so popular. They have to deal with it, treat it with kid gloves, even support it; but they don't like it.

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