Will AJAX Kill Microsoft Office?

by Preston Gralla

What are the best new application you've used recently? Most likely, it's something Web-based, like Gmail, Google Maps (now known as Google Local), the Flickr photo-sharing site, or the Amazon A9 search site.



Those sites all use AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) which combines several existing technologies, including CSS, JavaScript, XHTML, XML, and XSLT, to build Web applications that look and work more like desktop software than they do Web sites.



They also provide a glimpse of the future, one in which when broadband connections are everywhere available, there's no need to have bloated applications like Microsoft Office on your PC. Power up your computer, automatically connect to the Web, and you'll have productivity applications available just by heading to a Web site.



Imagine Google Office. It would be free, and have a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software. Would you spend several hundred dollars to buy Microsoft Office if something like that were available for free on the Web?



A lot of people were hoping that Sun and Google were going to announce something like that a few weeks ago. But they were looking for the wrong thing --- for Google to distribute OpenOffice.org on its Web servers.



That's not the future. The future is an AJAX-built productivity suite. And I'd be willing to be that you'll see it in the next few years.


Do you think an AJAX application could kill off Microsoft Office?


9 Comments

trollll
2005-10-24 13:44:32
Compliance?
I seriously doubt that doctors, Lawyer offices, government agencies and pre-IPO companies would allow any employees to store even potentially confidential or sensitive information like that.


Heck, I wouldn't trust my information like that. I don't care if I just want to make a shopping list with categories in bold+italic, no way would I trust it to GoogleWord. Everything you type could (and probably would eventually) get indexed for marketing use.


Not to mention the issues noted in "Web 2.0 and the drive-by upgrade" (http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/8176).


No, I think that such web apps will probably get created and used fairly often, but they won't replace anything in a global market sense...

larsd
2005-10-24 14:25:54
I don't think so
Every couple of years this idea of net-based Application Service Providers comes up, and always falls flat. It may work on simple applications like mail or maps; but in order to replace the 'bloated' office suits you would have to implement equally bloated AJAX applications - which furthermore would have to be downloaded almost every time you go that site.


Also consider that it is not yet clear that Web-2.0 is really more than just a solution in search of a problem. In my case, even though I work on computers the majority of my waking hours, Google Mail is just a backup mailaddress I read via POP in my mail reader, my first stop for maps is Mapquest, none of the pictures I took the last years is on Flickr, and I didn't know that Amazon A9 even existed.


And the best new application I have used recently was 'Chronicles of Riddick'.

macartisan
2005-10-26 10:26:24
The Network != The App
Yes, AJAXian web apps clearly could be designed that meet or beat the functionality in Office, but unless the code is running locally on my machine or some other equally reliable, equally available platform, I can't trust that the app will be available when I want to create or edit content.


If I can't assume the app will be available whenever I need it, why would I bother to start using it?


We've all had to suffer through email outages during a critical time, but we've made do because there's a parallel ubiquitous communication network already in place - the telephone network. What would be the natural fallback for a 'WebOffice' outage?


Thanks for the idea, but until that magical time when ubiquitous, always-on broadband Internet connectivity with 99.99% uptime is available in any area harboring more than 10 people per square mile, I'll pass on using Internet-based applications for mission-critical work.

oReilly
2005-10-27 01:10:56
what about Groove
MS is have Groove in its next version, right? How does AJAX implement Groove like functions?
ssethi
2005-10-27 01:35:40
Unbelievable Ludites!
The people commenting here are probably the same people who thought the browser would never take hold and that mainframes or client server computing would rule forever! On-demand Apps such Salesforce are showing the way of the future. In the corporate world who wants to manage and upgrade MS Office every two years when it could be done centrally.


I used to work for Netscape and when I had to demo a browser or explain CSS/Javascript - it was often dismissed as a passing fad. Well most of the web 2.0 technologies are now 10 years old.


So a web office for basic spreadsheet, word, presentation creation is not beyond the realm of belief. I think it will be sometime before MS Office is fully replaced but I have already switched to OpenOffice 2.0 (free/compatible) with my data storage held both locally and replicated online.


I am also working on an Atom "XML" Server. Google is also looking to use an Atom Server as the basis of their Google File System. With an Atom Server you then can utilise Xforms (supported in OpenOffice) to create/store well structured XML documents.


But the real battle is between Microsoft trying to suck the internet back into the Vista desktop (browser, search, documents) and Google that is trying to suck the internet onto their servers (Google base, local, blogs).


So what does the future operating system, file storage look like? Windows Vista + WinFS or Goolge's CloudOS + GooFS? The web has only just begun!

janmoons
2005-10-28 07:43:52
Give me the real Web 2.0 (people) and not just AJAX
Again a Web 2.0 related article, do they really think that AJAX is the solution for everything? Thinking that AJAX will kill MS Office is really a big laugh. AJAX is never going to replace MS Office, why should I be online to write a stupid WORD document, I want to do that in a quiet place where I don't get distracted by all those flashy web things, I just want to write documents or whatever.


And although Google Maps and GMail look nice but face it these are just small applications they are nothing compared to MS Office. Keep in mind I also like AJAX because it makes me believe I am using just a regular application, but it will never replace real desktop applications, I really don't believe this will happen.


Please don't think about Web 2.0 as AJAX, Web 2.0 is about people and how they want to retrieve the data they need, about how they are looking for means to handle their pictures, blogs, podcasts etc. It's about people communicating, socializing, creating and consuming content and not just about some 10 year old technology.


To all the geeks out there, come up with interesting applications where people can easily find each other, or find things they are looking for. And they shouldn't use Google search for this, the information should knock on their doors saying, hey I noticed you were looking for me so now here I am! That's what Web 2.0 should be about.

Techfreak
2005-10-31 20:58:20
Give me the real Web 2.0 (people) and not just AJAX
You Do you want to Shell out money,if we are getting free Solution.we Already have glimpse of reilablity and performance in gmail with most advanced features,like auto save and other functions.
Apart from this if Security issues are addressed then ,it will be very soon a reality.
Ian
2006-04-23 14:30:42
So, in a few years we will all be using Dumb terminals then?
Hard drives will be a thing of the past. Every bit of data you own will be on the web. On someone elses servers. No thanks.
Ok all you Ajax Smart Arses. I use Powerpoint to give presentations at different places around the UK, none of these places have access to wireless internet. If they did you can be damn sure you'd have to pay for the use of it. Why should I pay and why should I worry about dropped connections. Heck I've got enough on my plate on the night!!


So in the short term web based Apps are free. But you will pay in the long term. I have tried the Open Office version of Powerpoint and its Damn slooow. So thats not an alternative desktop app either.


Sorry but my data is my data. Its like giving your most private thoughts and asking a stranger to look after them in his brain!!!
What we want in the Future is choice, not one or the other. Microsoft software lives is what I want to see, not services. We all have heard of "Empowerment". Shoving your digital life into someone elses hands is taking away that empowerment.

Jackson Capper
2006-10-22 22:45:37
I've been a web developer for over 2 years now, and initially I would have never suspected the web to ever compete with desktop applications. But it's obvious what's happening, and I'm surprised there's so much skepticism. The web is truly the way to go now.


Initially, our company only built desktop-based solutions. Within 2 years, we have now completely shifted to web-based solutions and are NOT looking back. Since the transition, we have become A LOT more efficient, our clients are happier, we have NO technical issues, our products look better and are cleaner and more pure, and thanks to AJAX we've adopted a better and more natural architecture of separating the user interface from the business logic.


Best of all, every single one of our clients run the SAME VERSION of our software!