Is Microsoft helping HTML5 or trying to co-opt it?

'Lab' site with dev tools and games shows Microsoft as leader of spec it opposed

Microsoft has put up an online HTML5 "Lab" with tools for developers, training resources, explanations, demos and other tools to help developers and end users learn to work with the standard more effectively.

Though the Lab itself looks useful, Microsoft's motives for putting it up, and putting up free tools and instructions, has raised suspicions among many.

It hasn't been long since Microsoft was still beating the drum and bending every ear it could get a hold on for Silverlight -- the technology that was better than Flash, better than HTML5 and, above all, was very, very popular (though apparently only among those who had to use it to replace corrupted drivers or Windows updates on the Silverlight-heavy Microsoft.com).

Its enthusiasm for HTML5 site seems genuine enough. The Lab has an open, friendly interface with links that are more useful than most at Microsoft sites. It has a couple of games, for example, and a couple of tools for developers.

Still, the lab site surprised a lot of people who remember Microsoft isn't usually interoperable by choice, and didn't see a sharp angle that could dig in if its cover was good enough.

Microsoft's strategy is opaque; it's not about customers, it freely gives competitorFirefox a video upgrade.

More authoritatively, the "lab" site is a place to post prototypes of HTML5 to let customers and developers play with them and, in the words of a Microsoft spokesweasel:

"...The whole point of the Labs is to have a place to experiment with unstable specifications so that the specifications can improve. It’s impossible to judge beforehand when the specification will stabilize and be ready for inclusion in IE9.”

Aha.

That's the kind of vendor/politico-phrasing in which the speaker praises something but tries to smear it at the same time. Like praising an opponent's knowledge of the law while suggesting it came from studying law books in prison.

So HTML5 is the future of the Web and Microsoft is a leading supporter of HTML5, and leading developer of tools and clients to support it.

Never mind that until earlier this year it didn't want to see the word HTML5 in print without black funeral bunting draped around it.

Microsoft is now on board and would like you to know that.

It would also like you to know that, since it is on board, it will take over as much of the steering and navigation as it can, while feeding developers and users a steady stream of tiny snacks to distract you from noticing if the course has changed.

Understood.

Microsoft has plenty of tools. Help yourself. Take two, they're small.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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