Microsoft Windows Live
Everyone has been slamming Microsoft now that they are finally realizing that software is dead, and are making baby steps toward totally web hosted and distributed applications and services. Yes Windows Live is ameteurish, even for a public beta. It doesn't seem to have any more functionality than Yahoo!'s my.yahoo.com site, and in fact it falls way short in terms of usability and integration. For example, I started trying to use their live bookmarks, only to find out that I can't access them from the live home page as a plug in module. This would only seem to be logical, and I suppose that it will be coming in a future version but it seems like they have approached this launch with the lack of a plan. The AJAX they use is really cool, but it doesn't work from my Mac, or really from Firefox. It only seems to be of use when combined with the MSN toolbar which no one really downloads.
It would seem that Microsoft is preparing to make good use of Avalon with this, but there are no indications that they embracing open standards any more than they did when they brought out DHTML a while ago. This type of proprietary approach hurts innovation, and I have to say that if this is what they are bringing to face Google, then they have a long and uphill battle. I'll have to reserve complete judgement until I see the new and revamped Live webmail. This could be really cool, and the rest of the Live Office suite could be sweet too. It is just too early to tell. I don't think that Live is really useful at all for anything except for the curious to check out.
While I think that Microsoft could have done better, this is a definate step in the right direction, and I hope to see more steps toward embracing web development in the future. If Microsoft works with developers and the market, I think they would find that they would be a much more stalwart competitor like IBM and less threatened by newcomers moving onto their turf. I also think that Microsoft is beginning to dangerously veer away from their core business of top-of-the-line office software and operating systems. It is hard to tell now what their business is, and while they are very cash rich, dilution of a business' mission can not be a good thing.