I find it rather amusing (actually reminiscient might be more accurate) to see the flurry around AJAX. In particular, the number of companies that are springing up out of nowhere with 'AJAX desktops', 'AJAX Office' and 'AJAX messaging'. Feels like I'm back in 99. TechCrunch does a rather good job of following these developments.
It's easy to see that the infrastructure illiterati pushing these AJAX based services are so wrapped up in the world of web development, they never stopped to take a look at what other technologies enable delivery of rich client applications over minimal bandwidth to a platform agnostic client (which can be as simple as a java applet running in a browser or an ActiveX control). I am of course talking about the ICA protocol and it's derivative on the Windows platform, RDP.
There is so much amazing technology that has gone into the development of these 2 protocols, and so may years of serious improvements, I am sure that if the developers working on AJAX actually took a minute to understand them, they'd possibly pack up their AJAX shops right now and start writing real rich server based apps with little client footprint.
Just take a look at the seamless application publishing Microsoft will be delivering with Longhorn server. This is something Citrix has offered for maybe 10 years, but they see the writing on the wall - Citrix has re-invented itself as an access and identity management company for good reason. They know what the 800 pound gorilla of the software industry is capable of.
So just in time for the end of 2005, here is my prediction of where we'll end up sometime late 2006/ early 2007:
1) All these AJAX offerings will either have disappeared, be losing vast amounts of other peoples money or offering subscription based services for which people will quickly ask themselves 'why am I paying for this?'.
2) Microsoft will bury them with seamless office application delivery via Terminal Services, probably using the live.com portal as a launchpad.
For those of you not in the infrastructure space, Microsoft already has a rich corporate messaging client that is completely browser based and offers integration across their product suite (Office, Exchange, Sharepoint, ASP.NET) that the others could only dream of.
For those who doubt my predictions about the delivery of real applications over minimal bandwidth, check out this video on Channel9.msdn.com - http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=118318
And Merry Xmas / Happy New Year :-)