Don't be too quick to dump your plugin or applet based portions of your application. While AJAX and DHTML can do drag and drop and other advanced user interfaces there still limitations especially when it comes to browser support. Plugins and applets have been around for a while and have been able to make AJAX like requests for years. Applets provide a great set of UI components and APIs that provide developers literally anything.
Many people disregard applets or plugins because there is a startup time to initialize the plugin and there is no guarantee that the needed version of a plugin of JVM is installed. Plugins and applets may not be as capable of manipulating the page DOM. If you are in a uniform environment or can depend on a specific JVM or plugin version being available (such as in a corporate environment) a plugin or applet solution is great.
One thing to consider is a mix of AJAX and applets or plugins. Flickr uses a combination of AJAX interactions/DHTML for labeling pictures and user interaction and a plugin for manipulating photos and photo sets to provide a great user experience. If you design your server-side components well they can talk to both types of clients.
What’s new is the prominent use of these techniques in real-world applications to change the fundamental interaction model of the Web. Ajax is taking hold now because these technologies and the industry’s understanding of how to deploy them most effectively have taken time to develop.
It’s both. Ajax is a set of technologies being used together in a particular way.