Not that most of us who deal with web design don't already feel Microsoft to be the leading cause of daily frustration, but those guys continue to come up with new ways to infuriate our industry. If it's not lack of standards support in Internet Explorer 6, it's the completely-avoidable Eolas update last year.
The latest "next generation" product from the folks in Redmond goes by the name of Silverlight. One of the intentions for this proprietary, web-based runtime is takeover a bit of the Flash/Flex market from Adobe. While some healthy competition is good for innovation, Microsoft is just playing follow-the-leader yet again. The name Silverlight even invokes the same feeling as Flash. Moreover, one of the development tools for animation in Silverlight, Expression Blend, was code-named "Sparkle." The scariest thought is that designers or developers might actually have to rely on Microsoft applications for creative work. Just for good measure, Microsoft made sure to also ignore the open XUL and SVG standards for web applications with XAML. Instead of playing nicely with existing techonology, they've essentially positioned themselves to split the industry yet again. Albeit, young web-based companies will definitely reach for open, free technologies, before coughing up the money to lock themeslves into Microsoft and Windows.
It will be interesting to see how Silverlight fits in with Adobe Flash, Flex and Apollo as well as the new JavaFX from Sun. In the end, though, it's all a matter of choice; we can choose not to touch Silverlight... ever. Thank the Lord for that.
On a side note: Microsoft just launched the new Windows Live Hotmail (once again, playing follow-the-leader with Gmail and Yahoo! Mail). Users of the beta service recently received an email with beta-tester badges to advertise that they were a "Beta Tester for Windows Live Hotmail." Maybe I'm the only one who finds this absurd and hilarious, but I've yet to see one of those badges on a blog or website.