Europeans Whining About Microsoft Again Posted by: Billy Hollis
on Monday, January 29, 2007
I need to do a bit of technical exposition before beginning this post. Otherwise, it would be difficult to get my point. If you like your blog commentary uncontaminated by techno-speak, then you'll probably want to skip this entry.
You're almost certainly reading this in a browser, and this content was sent to your browser as HTML. Fine, and HTML does a good job of presenting hyperlinked content for you to read. No surprise, since that's what it was designed for.
But about ten years ago, some bright folks got the idea that you could run entire applications on the Internet, using a browser as the user interface for the application. That worked, kind of. If you've ever commented on a blog, only to see your comment disappear on a server error, then you understand some of the drawbacks. If you've finished some online shopping, and then been unsure whether you really ordered anything or not, you've also seen the problems of HTML applications.
So you can run software applications with HTML interfaces, but it's really a kludge, because HTML was not designed for that. There have been some extensions that spackle over some of the problems, but as a foundation for running worldwide distributed software applications, HTML leaves a lot to be desired.
A few years ago, Microsoft began an effort to develop a new user interface platform. Its code name was Avalon, but their marketing geniuses gave it the boring production name of Windows Presentation Foundation. It's typically abbreviated WPF. I happen to know more than most folks about it because I'm writing a book on it. (Full disclosure: I work a lot in the Microsoft part of the technology industry. Most of my income comes from consulting, speaking, and writing about Microsoft technologies.)
We're almost done with the tech stuff here, so hang on another paragraph. As a part of developing WPF, Microsoft developed a new markup language called XAML, pronounced "zamel". It allows much more sophisticated user interfaces to be created than HTML. For example, it lets you do the kinds of things that you can do in Flash, plus quite a bit more.
So Microsoft is trying to blaze some new ground here, and solve a long-standing problem. Well, it seems Microsoft can't do anything that pleases some Europeans. According to the New York Times:
Rivals of Microsoft renewed their call Friday for European regulators to act against what they say are “illegal practices,” charging that the new Vista operating system is the company’s effort to extend its monopoly to the Internet.
The group said Microsoft’s XAML markup language — which it said was positioned to replace the current Web page language HTML — was designed “from the ground up to be dependent on Windows.”
Well, this is only partially true at best. There are variants of WPF. The fullest variant is installed as part of Vista, and only runs otherwise on Windows XP. But, there's another version in the works, code-named WPF/e, that will allow XAML-based applications to run on Macintosh, too, and maybe other systems later. So in that sense, those "rivals" have it wrong. (And the vaunted fact-checkers at NYT apparently missed it.)
And anyway, what exactly do they want Microsoft to do? Stand around and let everyone else develop technology while their own goes stale?
Microsoft has often been accused in the past of simply copying other's ideas and failing to innovate. Now they're being criticized for trying to do some real innovation, in an area that desperately needs it.
Plus, Microsoft is responding to competitive pressures themselves. Google is heavily invested in doing applications on HTML, and in fact Google does about as good a job at that as it's possible to do. Google's innovation is along completely different paths from Microsoft's, so it benefits us all to have those two fight it out to deliver the next generation of Internet applications.
I don't know if WPF/XAML will take hold or not, though since I'm writing a book on it, I obviously think it has a pretty good chance. It's not going to replace HTML for browsing hyper-linked content any time soon. But it will give us a new way of doing friendlier applications on the Internet. And it will be in Microsoft's interest to see that technology used as widely as possible. Yes, they'll gain some competitive advantage as the creators. And, from a libertarian viewpoint, I simply don't see anything wrong with that.
It happens every time, doesn’t it? When MFC 1.0 came out, the Borland crowd shrieked, foreseeing the death of OWL. When .NET released, the Java folks had fits. Now, with the release of WPF and XAML, the HTML purists are freaking.
Me, I just keep my head down and continue to develop apps using the tools that best fit my customer’s environments, which are 90% Windows.
The rival group represents I.B.M., Nokia, Sun Microsystems, RealNetworks and Oracle along with smaller software companies like the Web browser maker Opera Software and two Linux operating system businesses: Red Hat and Linspire.
I am definately no apologist for M$. but overall they arent as bad as could be. They could be forcing us to pay much much more, but then they would not be so easily accepted.
They have a HUGE grip on the OS market, most PC users don’t even know anyhting else exists. Its like AOL users back in the day, and i point again at them for the possible future of MS, aka watch out for google MS as was pointed out in the posting. Iv heard mummers of google possibly working on a google OS.
Wal-Mart and Microsoft should merge and give people something to really cuss about.
Darn that MicroWalSoftMart! They don’t give any healthcare to their programmers! They have viruses infecting their apparel! Their lawnmowers are not compatible with my lawn! I’m shopping at AppleTarget from now on.
Making an analogy with the Java/dotnet business does not bolster your case that poor little Microsoft is being picked on.
MS had a perfectly good license with Sun to use Java, one that required neither market-controlling restrictions nor first-born, and they got caught screwing with the code to make it non-compatible and proprietary (where have we seen that behavior before?). Getting their fingers slapped evidently pushed them into a hissy-fit so they wrote their *own* language. And what do they name it?
Something absolutely designed to create confusion. Was this supposed to be an oblique FUD strategy? Who knows, but naming a language identically with the long established upper level domain name certainly moved them (and it) well into my "exceedingly annoying" class.