Saturday, June 18, 2011


The Windows family tree.
A lot of the big news in technology recently seems to center on the HTML5/JavaScript combination. There is much consternation in the Microsoft developers community over the recent news that Microsoft will apparently be moving away from the mature development that has evolved over the past several years to move towards a development environment that they are both unfamiliar with and unprepared for. Microsoft has been pushing them in the direction of .net, silverlight and other Microsoft specific technologies for decades and suddenly they are supposed to do a complete 180 and embrace open standards? It's no doubt a difficult pill to swallow.

The question however is do they really have a choice? Most technology prognosticators seem to be firmly of the opinion that the web is the future and that mobile computing platforms are going to play a big part in that future. Microsoft's current platform is Windows specific. Yes, they have made an effort to make many of their API's available across multiple Microsoft platforms but increasingly it isn't a primarily Microsoft world. Linux in the form of Android and Apple are both significant and growing players.

If I were a Microsoft developer I'd initially be upset by this move but then I'd start thinking about the possibilities. If my applications are written in HTML5/Javascript I suddenly have access to almost any Internet capable device. Of course it isn't quite that simple since different devices have different capabilities but I'd no longer be tied exclusively to one vendor.

I'd also be very surprised if Microsoft isn't well on the way to supporting HTML5/Javascript in their various development tools. In fact the latest version of Visual Studio is reported to have enhanced capabilities in this area. So the learning curve may not be quite as steep as some are thinking.

There are advantages for Microsoft as well. Their share of the total computing market (smart phones, tablets, desktops, laptops, etc.) has been shrinking for awhile now. By moving to open standards they significantly increase their potential customer base. To be clear, I don't see their developer tools running on anything other than Windows any time soon, but if those development tools are good, and can be used to develop code for non Microsoft products then non Microsoft developers just might buy and use them.

In the case of Microsoft's office productivity and other applications the picture would be even rosier since those apps would in theory be capable of running anywhere. Microsoft invests a substantial amount of money right now on the Apple specific version of their Office suite. That cost could be greatly reduced by this move.

For a long time Microsoft's business strategy has been predicated on locking people into their dominant OS platform. Those who have been around for awhile will recall the battle Microsoft fought against TCP/IP (AKA, the Internet) back in the early 1990's. It seems absurd now but Microsoft seemed to think that they could do their own proprietary protocols (that didn't even route well from what I recall) and ignore the whole Internet thing. One day Bill Gates apparently woke up and realized they weren't going to be able to win that battle and almost overnight Microsoft embraced the Internet and were thus able to maintain their dominant position for nearly twenty more years. That was what is referred to as an inflection point and Microsoft chose well. The question is, are we at another inflection point and is Microsoft choosing well?

In my opinion the answer to both of those questions is yes. It's easy to see why others would feel otherwise though, particularly parties with a strong vested interest in the way things have been going up until now. I'd wager a fair amount of money that there is some very spirited debate going on inside Microsoft right now about whether this is the right move to make. It's at times like this that CEO's and senior management earn (or not) their pay.

Image via Wikipedia

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1 comment:

  1. HTML5 development is growing field these days because of variety of hybrid and native applications.HTML5 Developer can come up with single applications that offers many features, being complex in nature.