To understand why this deal is Peal Harbor for Microsoft, and a declaration of all out war for Google, i think one has to make a leap and consider that this isn't about applications. It's about the quality of the information experience one can find at Google, or, through the costly nightmare of maintaining a similar experience through revolving MS shrinkware.
One things for sure. Google played the Internet card today. And it trumps everything in Redmond's aging arsenal. It's not about applications. It's about what you and yours can collaboratively do when your working in the roaring Niagra mist of information volumes Google serves up.
It's true that Google is building an application and information services arsenal, but these efforts are designed exactly to maximize the value of Google's core asset; massive computational power with global network reach organizing mankind's information to better serve mankind's knowledge needs.
Amazingly those needs cover ever more aspects of our commerce, social, cultural and political lives. The history of the computer is also the story of ever more aspects of our reality finding digital expression. So much so that we've created a digital civilization that simply can't be separated from the other reality. You can't separate an idea or cognitive construct from the physical reality it describes. You can't separate our digital civilization from the rest of our reality. Nor can you separate it form the Internet. Game Google. This ain't your grandfathers shrinkwrap.
Here's something to think about. When you do a Google search, do you get applications or documents? Right. The power of Google lies in the reach of their computational forces and the open, robust digital life that is the Internet. For Google to thrive, information must be cut loose from their application ties and set free using open, Internet ready file formats.
Microsoft made their billzillions from tying information to specific application and platform versions, and tying those to hardware and API references, charging a premium for the licenses needed to facilitate the exchange and interchange of documents. Just the opposite of the Internet centric Google model.
Something else to consider. Web 1.0 information was document bound and unstructured. Meaning, it hardly qualifies as machine readable. You can beat it to death with a browser, but forget about computationally working it to extract information rich components and data streams.
Web 2.0 changes that. Enter XML, RDF and the world of highly structured, highly interactive component information and data rich documents. So highly structured that our computational machines can run wild with metadata, conceptual tagging and ontology armed engines to aggregate, re use, re purpose information components as they zig zag across vast stores of documents.
Question: Who is it who has amassed the most powerful computational force known and made this power available to all mankind? Same people who have the most awesome Internet reach.
On to Writely and why this is a day that will live in Redmond infamy. Writely lives on the Internet, in the same space as Google information, enabling mankind to collaboratively work with Wiki and Blog information. The collaboration is both human and machine in that when someone logs into a Writely document space, they do so riding high on their computational machines. Okay, so now we have Writely able to bridge the traditional desktop productivity environment with the Wiki, Blog and eMail collaboration tools. Because of the space it occupies, Writely is also in flow of all that Google information and information organization services.
So far so good. Nothing uniquely desktop or even competitively desktop here except for the bridge though. So where's the Redmond killer?
The killer is in the connection between Writely, Google power, and XML ready user interfaces and systems.
Aha! XML ready environments. The heart and soul of any Service Oriented Architecture; any enterprise publication and content management system, and the Web 2.0. Without XML there isn't any SOA or Web 2.0!
Incredibly there is an XML ready cross platform desktop productivity environment that can run on all Windows versions post Win95. And it's yours for the cost of a free download. It gets better.
Our Internet ready XML desktop productivity environment has OpenOffice.org and Mozilla at it's core. The XML language this environment is so incredibly fluent in is that of OpenDocument, which is itself a wrapper of important Open XML technologies (HTML, XHTML, XForms, SVG, SMiL, CSS, XSLT, etc.) OpenDocument (ODF) is also a highly structured XML open standard now moving to embrace a universal metadata model based on a bridge between XML and RDF.
So what ties our XML ready desktop productivity environment to SOA, CMS, and the Open Internet? OpenDocument. ODF is also the tie to Writely. Bingo!!!
Writely is a masterpiece of an ODF AJAX engine, able to upload any OpenDocument file for collaborative work, publication, and/or distribution. Highly structured information in, highly structured collaborative information out. All of which is Internet ready.
The killer for Microsoft is that they now face an open stack of highly structured, Internet ready information services that with the flick of the download switch could easily stretch across the over 450 million desktops that make up the mighty Windows monopoly base, over every Linux, OSX, and Solaris desktop, up through Writely collaboration services, through the Google mash of services and information and out across the Open Internet, and back again.
Amazing what can happen when you finally are able to separate information from application, package it in a highly structured self describing open XML file format, and put the power of Google behind it.
Question: Will Microsoft respond by finally cutting their file format loose from the hardened application and platform dependencies so profitable in the past? Or will they let Google and ODF run off with both the monopoly base, and the future?
The 1901 pages of the MSECMAXML specification says just the opposite of what anyone with half a brain would advise Microsoft to do. Where ODF is a wrapper of Open XML technologies, MSECMAXML is a wrapper of XP/Vista dependencies and systems calls.
Looks to me like our friends in Redmond tried to squeeze a good thing for far too long. ODF in the hands of productivity environments rich with the likes of OpenOffice.org, KOffice, WorkPlace, Novell Office, and AbiWord might not be cause for alarm in Redmond. ODF in the hands of Apache, Plone, Zope, Zend, ezPublish, and Writely ought to have concerned them because this was something new; Desktop environments connecting to Internet servers and services with ODF. Redmond still didn't break a sweat.
And now the unthinkable has happened. ODF in a Google AJAX engine!
Yeah. It's a killer.