Phil Wainewright, after having drifted too far into the "the web is good enough" camp, now gets back to a point of view I find much more easy to agree with:
"Jon Udell’s recent column on The Google PC generation made a very strong case for deploying PC horsepower to marshaling data rather than enhancing the user interface: "If you join massive horsepower to vast data, amazing things will happen." The mistake that Microsoft is making by pouring resources into Avalon is to focus on perfecting the user experience for solitary creative endeavours at the expense of enhancing good-enough access to the tremendously powerful collaborative resources of the Internet (low-cost photo touch-up service providers, for example)."
While I’m not sure Avalon is so much of a focus that it would hurt Longhorn’s strengths as a rich internet client, at least we agree on the premise: the challenge is to get the best of both worlds, rather than keep opposing reach and richness. We want both, and there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll get them. What platform will get there first, and in what timeframe, is what remains to be seen.
07/15/04 update: Phil got back to this topic here, and addresses the counterpoints I and others raised in this entry (where he underlines the synchronicity between the sale of Oddpost to Yahoo and the acquisition of Alphablox by IBM). I have witnessed firsthand the resistance of resource-starved small and medium businesses to feature-rich but high-maintenance solutions such as the Exchance/Outlook combination, so I certainly can relate to the idea that lighter products such as browser-based apps can be valuable.
07/16/04 update: see also IBM’s Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah’s answer. His last paragraph:
"The major missing infrastructure piece in rich web applications is going offline and synchronizing with good security. But that’s a story for another day."
leads me to come back to two thoughts I’ve had in the past: on the Microsoft side, Groove (whose 3.0 release didn’t seem to generate much buzz) should interact more with the web, while on the opposite corner IBM might want to buy BEA not just to consolidate the app server market. BEA is even more affordable than three years ago (almost to the exact day) when I first pondered how they might be snatched by a bigger player. BEA is again at a 52-week low (they lost half their market cap a few months ago after a disappointing quarter), with a much more reasonable P/E ratio though.