What all this is about: XUL, or XML User Interface Language was developed by Mozilla as an XML-based language for web applications. More simply, what XHTML does for web pages, XUL does for web applications. And this is all very important, largely because of the XML foundation and the implications for business.
Now what Microsoft has done is effectively developed their own version of XUL for Internet Explorer, which they’re calling XAML. Remember the browser wars? Remember custom-coding DHTML libraries for two different platforms? Remember how ridiculously redundant that was even in an era when people had a stupidly casual ability to throw around bags of cash? It won’t happen again.
The operating system lock-in created and perpetuates the browser lock-in. Now the browser will give that extra boost to the OS. “Our application only works on Windows, using IE. No, sorry, extra development costs are too much. You’ll just have to use a Windows desktop.”
Apple has a tremendous amount of momentum right now, and about three years to innovate and compete against an OS that was released two years ago tomorrow. If they embrace a development platform like XUL and actually make inroads with the customers who will be deploying applications using it, will it be enough?
All this can be somewhat negated by the opportunity that exists for Microsoft to play fair. If, as Simon postulates, XAML can be transformed server-side to XUL (using XSLT), then we all win. But Eric remembers his history, which suggests we shouldn’t rely on that happening. I’ll throw this into the ring then: even if it’s possible, will it be cost-effective? For organizations to spend an extra 20% of a development budget to support a 3% share of the market is a bit of a stretch. But it’s obviously do-able, seeing as how many still bend over backward for NN4.x.
The end result is still anyone’s guess. A lot can happen in three years. This is an encouraging step forward for the web in general; at least the current stagnation is starting to show signs of ending. Whether the final outcome means an impenetrable hegemony is unclear. The only for sure thing is that the web landscape in 2008 will be radically different than what we see now.
That can’t be a surprise to anyone.