Microsoft is so huge and so wealthy that they can afford to make some big time mistakes.
I predict that Windows Live, unveiled earlier this week, will be one of them.
The stuff you can do with the latest DHTML/AJAX/whatever techniques is really cool. It looks sexy and it's a lot of fun to program. I'll admit that, like a lot of other developers, I tend to look at a web based solution to a problem far more often than I probably ought to these days.
But I just can't believe that the need for rich client applications is ever going to go away. Making a web version of Microsoft Office is, in my opinion, just silly. Why would I want to be at the mercy of my internet connection to do things like type up a letter, or punch data into a spreadsheet, or put together a presentation?
Also, Microsoft might actually be arriving to this particular game a tad too late. Google has been doing this sort of thing for awhile, and doing it reasonably well. The Microsoft Live page sure looks a lot like the customized Google home page, doesn't it? And guess what... Google's works in Firefox. I'm not ready to totally write off Microsoft just yet (after all, they've had a lot of success taking working models from other companies and improving/mainstreaming them), but I wouldn't put my money on them winning this fight.
And besides, win or lose, I just can't see this being worth the effort for Microsoft. They make successful rich client apps. They have a dominant operating system. They make the best developer tools money can buy.
I saw a comment from one tech reporter saying that Google is attempting to strike a blow at Microsoft by eliminating the need for an operating system. Sadly, what this reporter doesn't understand is that you need an operating system TO RUN AN INTERNET BROWSER. And Windows has a stranglehold on that market that, I promise you, they're not going to relinquish any time soon.
But for some reason, I think Microsoft might be LISTENING to all of this Google-loving media hype. Considering how often the tech media has declared the end of Microsoft the last decade, they should be dead several times over.
Microsoft should be focused on improving their rich client products by making them better follow standards so they can play well with other apps. THAT'S how they can best increase their already huge market share... more people are likely to use your app if it works with things they already have and like.
But hey, I've been wrong before.