Todd Bishop interviewed Michael Robertson, he of Linspire, Gizmo, and ajaxLaunch fame at seattlepi.com recently. Setting aside the marketing rhetoric he employs in his newsletters, Robertson explained why he believes Microsoft needs competition. Robertson pointed to te effect Firefox has had in motivating Microsoft to improve Internet Explorer as perfect example of how competition can raise the bar.
Here's the money quote:
"To me, it's just a business imperative that every business needs competition. I do think I have a little bit of responsibility -- because I do have money from my previous ventures, and I'm a tech guy and I can take those risks -- to make sure that Microsoft has competition. But fundamentally, the direction that I want to push the industry, toward Web-delivered applications, I think is the right one, the one that will win out in the long run."
ajaxWrite and ajaxSketch, the first two web-based apps Robertson has made available, aren't much more than proofs of concept at this point in time. And there's little to suggest that either will make even a small dent in Microsoft Office in their current form. But Robertson, unlike many purveyors of web-based or alternative desktop software, has the money and experience to push and prod at the edges of the market. A Microsoft spokesperson quoted in rebuttal by Bishop had this to say:
"Writely has been one of the many small teams around the world vying for attention in productivity software, but there apparently is little demand for basic document editors at this time. That said, we monitor this space closely, listen closely to customers, and welcome competition in the marketplace from all sorts of ideas. It is healthy for the industry as a whole and good for customers."
Or... as Bishop translates that:
"In other words, no Web-based Microsoft Word for now."