01:29 AM

AJAX, AJAX, AJAX...it's on everyone's lips and so is Zimbra

By Tom Foremski for Silicon Valley Watcher.com

AJAX is the word this month. Maybe for a few months. It's both a technology and a real product. AJAX is about creating a new generation of online/web based applications that are independent of virtually anything.

AJAX is not about client software versus server software--the point is that AJAX software doesn't care about the platform. And AJAX will be one of the key technologies that powers the (near) future ubiquitous wireless/wired web.

AJAX represents a unique class of applications that carry their own processing, independent of the client system. AJAX applications represent the second key technology of Internet 2.0 (the first is RSS.)

The concept represented by AJAX is neither something you download to your PC, client software, or that you keep on the web such as Hotmail--it is both and neither. In the same way that RSS is a product of Internet 2.0--it is part email part web page but neither.

It is when we encounter such near perfect paradoxes that we know that these are technologies that deserve closer attention, imho.

AJAX has begun to catch the attention of the venture capital community, and their investments are starting to drive up the value of new deals. And some companies are building a lot of buzz.

One of the darlings of the AJAX sector is Zimbra. I met Satish Dharmaraj CEO of Zimbra, a few weeks ago.

I was impressed with his energy and mentioned the meeting here on SVW. Now, I keep bumping into people who mention Zimbra and it is all very positive stuff.

Zimbra is creating an AJAX Microsoft Outlook, and it's a good execution of this familiar user interface.

Zimbra is smart, because it is leveraging first mover advantage. I know that phrase sounds 1999, but this time, in Internet 2.0, that phrase means something.

Also, VCs are throwing money into AJAX companies which is driving up valuations, and that threatens to spoil the overall market. And there will soon be thousands of developers creating AJAX applications, so first/fast mover is important. Zimbra looks to be ahead of the game so far, but how far ahead is difficult to judge.

Selling into the enterprise is a tough sell--it is a very conservative market. And the coming marketing din of AJAX startups is going to make it difficult to be heard.

It is those AJAX startups that already have some name recognition, some products, especially a user community--not to mention revenues--that stand the best chance of surviving.

Those that can be the first movers will own the fat part of the long tail, and the fat part is the best part.

[BTW, since when did one half of the bell distribution become the long tail?! If the internet enables 6 people to share an interest in an obscure cult TV show, then they are probably already doing it... No?]

More AJAX in future posts...