Microsoft forges first official link to Eclipse

Microsoft Corp. Wednesday announced its first collaboration with the open source Eclipse Foundation by committing to provide engineering support to allow the Eclipse Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) to use Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). The move aims to make it easier for Java developers to write applications that look and feel like native Windows Vista, according to Microsoft.

SWT is an open source widget toolkit for Java that provides portable access to the user interfaces of multiple operating systems, according to Eclipse.

"We're committing to improve [SWT] with direct support from our engineering teams and the Open Source Software Lab, with the goal of a first-class authoring experience for Java developers," wrote Sam Ramji, director of Microsoft's Open Source Software Lab, in a blog post.

"It just makes sense to enable Java on Windows. We started a collaborative effort with JBoss two years ago that continues to this day. At the end of the day, it's all about the developer. There will be more to come from the conversations that Eclipse and Microsoft have begun, and I look forward to announcing those in the future as we have demonstrable technology results. Ramji added.

Ramji disclosed Microsoft's first collaboration with the Eclipse open source community during a keynote speech Wednesday at the 2008 EclipseCon conference in San Jose.

Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC said that Wednesday's announcement was "a very small move, but a step in the right direction. It will introduce a semblance of comparability between programming on Windows on other platforms." However, he also noted that the move "reflects the difficulty Microsoft is still having in dealing with Eclipse in a bigger way.

"The big steps Microsoft has to take in openness is they have to persuade the community, the investors ... that they have an entirely differ approach to business based on standards, openness and community," Hilwa said. "They don't support anything other than windows as a platform. That is the kind of thing that will create the beginnings of a mindset change around them. That is a few years away if it is ever going to happen."

He said that interoperability with Eclipse is a milestone for Microsoft to show the world that it is becoming a more open company.

Some industry insiders had speculated earlier this week that Microsoft might announce support for Eclipse plug-ins for its core Visual Studio IDE.

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