There’s a nice interview on Microsoft’s new found respect for AJAX: Q&A: Microsoft Touts New Ajax Tools. Microsoft says:
First of all, we need to understand the need driving the interest in Ajax, which as a style of Web development bears its roots in what Microsoft invented almost 8 years ago with IE4 (DHTML) and IE5 (XMLHttp). Most of what is fueling the interest, in this somewhat old technology, has been frustration around how to create richer applications on the Web.
Note that he quite properly points out that DHTML and XMLHttp, two core technologies required for AJAX, were “invented” by Microsoft. What he fails to point out is that Microsoft crippled DHTML in later versions of IE because it started to make the web a platform for rich client and could threaten Microsoft’s dominance of the desktop. Funny that the very thing they didn’t want to happen (rich web-based clients) is what’s causing them trouble now.
Instead of building the best platform technologies into the browser and then letting it flourish and taking advantage of the platform to deliver services themselves, Microsoft gave an opening to the likes of Google by not leveraging their own technology for over 4 years.
While it’s a little late, Windows Live and Office Live should address the issues by offering nice services. I’m not one to count Microsoft out, though, no matter how high flying Google is at this time.
The ingenuity and developer relationships that Microsoft has should get them back into the game very quick.