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Microsoft working with Eclipse on Vista, ID links

Executive from software giant stresses company's open-source efforts, including using Eclipse technology to build Java apps for Vista

Microsoft's much-anticipated revelations about collaborations with the Eclipse Foundation Wednesday did not include joining the open-source tools foundation. But the two organizations are working together to enable use of Eclipse technology to build Java applications for Windows Vista.

Also, Microsoft and Eclipse are collaborating on identity management via linking Eclipse's Higgins Project with Microsoft's CardSpace technology. Microsoft's efforts were detailed by Sam Ramji, Microsoft director of platform technology strategy, at the EclipseCon 2008 conference in the US.

Ramji guided the audience through a list of efforts Microsoft has made in the open-source world, such as accommodations for PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor), JBoss, and Novell's Xen hypervisor. Ramji also said Microsoft itself has 200 projects hosted on its CodePlex open-source hosting site.

Microsoft traditionally has been viewed as the anti-open-source company, but Ramji spared no detail looking to refute this notion, listing a myriad of projects undertaken over the years. "Today, we're architecting our participation in the open-source world," said Ramji, who directs the open-source lab at Microsoft.

The Java enablement effort for Vista involves collaboration on an SWT (Standard Widget Toolkit) to work with Microsoft's WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) technology for graphical presentation. This will enable Java to be used an authoring language to write WPF-enabled applications, Ramji said.

SWT is the graphics library used by Eclipse for portability across platforms, said Mike Milinkovich, Eclipse executive director. Eclipse is in the process of porting SWT to WPF. "Having [Microsoft's] participation is going to make it mean that we're going to be able to do a better job more quickly," Milinkovich said. Eclipse's port means Eclipse's development platform can run as a first-class platform on Vista. "One of the things you'll be able to do is write an application in Java on Vista, and it will look as good as any application written in C#," said Milinkovich.

The Higgins Project, meanwhile, is a framework to integrate identity, profile, and social relationship information across different sites, applications, and devices. Interoperability between Microsoft's CardSpace and Higgins will provide for reliable, interoperable identity management, Ramji said.

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Other possible collaborations also were cited. Ramji said he and Milinkovich have talked about Microsoft building a C# IDE at Eclipse. "That's a conversation Mike and I will keep [having]," he said. "Watch this space."

Microsoft also is pondering accepting Java as a first-class citizen on the Windows platform, Ramji acknowledged. "I think there's enough interest to start taking a look at that," he said.

The Wiseman project, offering a Java implementation of the WS-Management stack for Web services, also was mentioned by Ramji. He did not commit, however, to Microsoft having official Eclipse "committers" who work on Eclipse projects.

An analyst was skeptical of Microsoft's efforts. "We need some more fine print to make sure there's not any weird clauses like that 'not for commercial use' stuff in the Microsoft interop memo," from a few weeks ago, said analyst Michael Cote of RedMonk.

An attendee at EclipseCon was encouraged by Microsoft but still had questions about the company's intentions.

"I believe Microsoft can't ignore the open-source movement," said the attendee, Samuel Edge, president and CEO of Neoharbor, which offers electronic publishing services.

He raised the issue about what impact Microsoft's patents could have on the company's intentions.

"Microsoft's patent portfolio is quite large and what's going to be their primary interest? Protecting that or help facilitate open source," Edge said. "It's one of my biggest concerns."

Microsoft is in the third year of a 10-year effort to bolster its stance in the open-source realm. By 2015, Microsoft expects to be considered a responsible member of the open-source development community, said Ramji.

Microsoft also is working with the Apache Software Foundation on interoperability with Windows Server, said Ramji.

Ramji jokingly began his presentation by announcing a fictitious project named "Supernova," which would have Eclipse and Visual Studio merging and Microsoft acquiring copyrights and trademarks from the Eclipse Foundation.

He had mentioned he would be presenting at EclipseCon during a panel session at the MIX08 conference in Las Vegas two weeks ago.