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FOR THE LAST DECADE, MICROSOFT’S INTERNET AND NON-INTERNET STRATEGIES HAVE BEEN CENTERED ON WINDOWS.  THIS STRATEGY HAS WORKED UP UNTIL NOW, BUT IS ALSO THE REASON FOR MICROSOFT’S STAGNATION AS A COMPANY.  MICROSOFT LATEST ACTIONS APPEAR TO BE THE OPENING SALVO IS A NEW WAR FOR THE INTERNET.  THE ONLY COMPANY POISED TO STOP THEM IS GOOGLE BY USING MICROSOFT’S MOMENTUM TO BUILD AN AD-BASED OFFICE KILLER.

MICROSOFT’S NEW STRATEGY
Microsoft has a distinct advantage over its competitors because it uses its own tools to create its products.  Historically, its only perceived meaningful competitor was Borland, which was why Microsoft was so joyous when Borland became irrelevant.  Even so, Microsoft has been able to use Office and Windows as smoke screens for its actual intentions – domination of the internet.  Described here is how I perceive Microsoft intends to accomplish this.

The public concept of the Internet changed in 1995 from being an interconnection of networks and associated tools to being viewed solely as the World Wide Web.  News groups, gopher sites, and telnet bulletin board systems were the main applications of the internet prior to that time.  The web was introduced almost as a logical replacement of the menu based gopher servers with hyperlinks instead of the gopher menus for navigation.  It is no wonder that Microsoft was not the first on the web bandwagon, but the introduction of WPF and XAML clearly signifies a change.  If Microsoft is successful in implementing its strategy, the public’s perception of the Internet will change from a data dominant format (web pages) to an application based format (WPF applications).

WPF and XAML are not about making web pages more interactive or flashy but are intended to obsolete web pages.  Instead of trillions of documents linked together, the web would be replaced by seas of Internet applications.  These applications will use REST based web services for interaction instead of HTML hyperlinks, eliminating the need for web search engines.  The internet will slowly become opaque to the search engine crawlers because interpreting XAML application code will not yield the same sort of meaningful results generated from HTML documents.

The introduction of WPF will generate a market for off the shelf internet applications that never fully existed with HTML.  The imposed connectionless nature of HTTP that hampers HTML is removed along with gaining the abilities to easily use local processing and storage. This removes the significant privacy concerns that many users have related to web sites while significantly reducing the need for web server capacity.  WPF enables the creation of new forms of internet applications.  For example, instead of newspapers maintaining their own separate websites, a single internet application could be created to access all media content.  But, how would internet applications be found if they are not searchable through Google? 

Microsoft has failed to establish a portal website and search site, so the next logical step is for Microsoft to buy an already established world-wide internet portal (i.e. Yahoo).  Microsoft’s “willingness” to walk away from the purchase of Yahoo is likely a ploy because the long term success of Microsoft strategy is enhanced by the acquisition of Yahoo’s portal and advertising knowledge.  But even if Microsoft is unable to purchase Yahoo, WPF and XAML are not only positioned to replace web and client applications but will also add dramatically to their capabilities (especially in the area of graphics and media).  Microsoft could have rolled out a reduced version of WPF and XAML years ago, but they have waited until the WPF/XAML technology is mature enough to crush anything that is possible with HTML.

IMPACT ON GOOGLE
Microsoft may know how to execute in the business software arena, but it will have to buy its way into an advertising strategy.  If acting quickly, Google could trounce Microsoft by using Microsoft’s own strategy.   They could embrace WPF to build an ad-based office killer, along with a market place for ad-based internet applications.  This would surely demoralize Microsoft.

The media’s claim that Google and Microsoft are competitors has always puzzled me.  What market does a “search engine/advertising” company and an “operating system/business software” developer share?  The talk from the media was mostly about Google’s threats into “Microsoft territory” (office, exchange, outlook, Windows, etc), but I have never heard about how Microsoft could damage Google. Microsoft attempts so far with search engines and advertising have not yielded Google-like results.  Until recently, I would have considered Google as benefiting from Microsoft’s dysfunctional strategy.  The new strategy to become an “internet business software/advertising” company almost certainly threatens Google.

Google is a powerful company that makes money from advertisements usually attached to web search results.  If Microsoft executes its strategy, then Google’s core search engine business might erode, but Google would not go down without a serious fight.  They have positioned themselves on the moral high ground and will perceive any fight with Microsoft as honorable.  It is believed by many that the slow death of Windows is starting to occur.  The limiting factor for Windows is not technology or lack of innovative ideas but legal constraints.  Likewise, the functionality of Microsoft Office has not significantly changed this decade.  If both Windows and Office are entering the end of life stage, then this is the time for Google to strike before Microsoft executes on its next strategy.

Why should Google take on Microsoft and not IBM, Oracle, or some other technology leader?  Beyond Yahoo, no other technology company could execute on an Internet application strategy as effectively as Google.  Yahoo has the internet presence but ultimately will become part of another company, which is likely why Microsoft is attempting to purchase it.  Yahoo merged with a company such as IBM would definitely make for an interesting alternative, which is something that Microsoft would want to block it.

Will Google use WPF or ignore it like they do with all other Microsoft tools?  There is a powerful emotional argument that can be made for Google to ignore it. 

HTML CAN AND SHOULD BE REPLACED
Building applications with HTML is similar to building an application within a word processor.  HTML was created for document publishing and linking, not for interacting with users and executing processes.  Simple tasks accomplished with application code running locally often take heroic efforts to duplicate within a web page.  Web page development tools have become increasing better at hiding the underlying nature of HTML from the developer, but it is impossible to escape the nature of HTML completely.  Google Maps is an excellent example of this because it is an incredible web site, but the extraordinary effort Google took to develop it should not be understated.  If that same effort was applied using WPF/XAML instead of HTML, its name could be changed from Google Maps to Google GIS.

If HTML is a poor application development environment, then why are web applications so successful?  If your only view of the internet is as the web, then you are missing the bigger picture.  The Internet itself grew exponentially in the last decade and the web and email were the most accessible means for businesses to interact with customers, so they naturally grew with the Internet.  FTP, Telnet, Gopher, Usenet, MUDs, IRC, and other Internet applications have all but been ignored because businesses could not figure out what to do with them (although IRC is making a resurgence in the form of instant messaging).  There is nothing fundamentally special about HTML that inhibits it from also being replaced.  HTML is only dominant due to the network effect, and its replacement will likewise dominant the internet landscape.

POSSIBLE INTERNET APPLICATIONS
Internet applications could alter the current supplier-customer relationship.  Purchasing through the internet usually requires transmittal of credit card information across the internet to the supplier or a third party.  Client side Internet application would remove this requirement as the client application could directly interact with the credit card company.  This would benefit both sides as suppliers would no longer need to deal with individual payments directly and customers would benefit by not having to transmit their personal credit card information to a third party.

Internet applications can also use client side processing and storage.  Data processing local to the client (e.g. graphical rendering) could be done with the client’s resources.

 

BUSINESS IMPLICATION OF INTERNET APPLICATIONS
Imagine web applications that can securely access your organizations data directly!  The application code could be developed and maintained off-site without the data ever leaving the organization’s premises.  Unlike a website, the application would even be available if there was a problem with the Internet external to the organization.  Until now, to gain the benefits of browser based applications required either giving up control over the organization’s data or setting up an internal web server farm.

(work in progress…)

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