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Intel Joins Eclipse Consortium

Although it has supported Microsoft's development efforts for years, Intel Wednesday announced that it has officially joined software development consortium Eclipse as a supporting member, giving the Java community another powerful ally in its fight against the .NET development environment.

The move is a sign that the battle between the Java language faithful, including companies such as IBM and Sun Microsystems , and users of Microsoft platforms such as Visual Studio .NET environment, is heating up. Both Eclipse and Microsoft developers have been working feverishly to bring embedded systems to the fore for handheld devices and cell phones.

A source close to the matter said the news is perhaps a shift away from Microsoft, whom Intel has historically supported for most endeavors. "Before this, Intel were exclusively Windows, or did one-offs with Java developers," the source said.

However, ZapThink Senior Analyst Jason Bloomberg downplayed that thinking, noting that it doesn't mean Intel will support Microsoft less, "just that they will be adding Eclipse to their grab bag of software capabilities."

"I don't see that this announcement has any major implications for Microsoft," Bloomberg said. "Remember, Intel wants to drive the market for their chips, so they don't really care who's brand of software is running on them."

But Redmonk Senior Analyst Stephen O'Grady disagreed, saying it is a bit of a swipe in the direction of Microsoft.

"This is definitely a significant announcement and a significant addition to the Eclipse board," O'Grady said. "It's a PR hit for Microsoft, certainly, in that it's a break in the Wintel ranks which lends support to the rival Java development community (although Eclipse is certainly not strictly a Java environment). Java developers are likely to make a lot out of the announcement, construing Intel's move as an admission that Java has a serious role to play in enterprise development."

O'Grady did offer the following caveat.

"... this is not the first vendor with tight ties to Microsoft to join Eclipse; HP comes to mind as another, he said. "And ultimately will this announcement tip the scales in Java's favor at the expense of .NET? Seems unlikely."

Eclipse Board Chairperson Skip McGaughey refused to color the the play as a standoff between Microsoft and Eclipse, noting that it is simply a reaffirmation of open standards. "Eclipse is "really excited" about it," he said. "The market really wants interoperability and integration."

To wit, Intel is passing off the news as an opportunity to show its commitment to open software from such groups as Eclipse.

"Intel is pleased to participate as a member of Eclipse and will play an active role in fostering tool interoperability and integration within the Eclipse framework," said Jonathan Khazam, general manager of Intel's Software Products Division, who will sit on the Eclipse board. "Our commitment to open standards and deep knowledge of processor architecture will help us enable software developers to harness the full power of Intel processors for applications."

Intel said Khazam will offer plug-ins for the Eclipse development environment to help developers write Java applications for its Pentium 4, Xeon, and Itanium processor-based systems. Intel also plans to integrate its development tools, such as compilers and VTune performance analyzers into the Eclipse development environment.

Intel's full support of Eclipse comes a day after the open-source group Mobile Industry Processor Interface (MIPI) Alliance formed to take on Microsoft in the battle for embedded operating system supremacy, where the Redmond Wash. software giant has made several inroads into devices like high-performing smartphones and PDAs.

Made up of Nokia, chip designer ARM, Texas Instruments, and STMicroelectronics the non-profit MIPI group says it wants others in the mobile industry to join and support open standards.