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Microsoft to Help Eclipse

While it may not fulfill the old cliché of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," Microsoft is doing the next best thing when it comes to the Eclipse Foundation – best known for its Java-based, open source integrated development environment (IDE) project – and helping it.

This week, Microsoft committed to collaborating with the foundation's Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) development team to allow Eclipse to use the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), the graphics platform underlying Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

"I'm writing this from EclipseCon in Santa Clara, California, where I'm going to announce the beginning of Microsoft's collaborative work with the Eclipse Foundation," Sam Ramji, director of Microsoft's Open Source Software Lab said in a blog post on the company's Port 25 developer site on Wednesday. The company bills Port 25 as "home to the open source community at Microsoft."

The project, according to Ramji's post, began a year ago with a discussion he had with Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. "That discussion led to a conversation about what we could do to help Eclipse developers building software for Windows," Ramji continued.

Eclipse has evolved into much more than just an open source IDE, although it is that, too. The Eclipse Foundation today works on a wide range of Eclipse platform projects, including IDEs, business intelligence reporting tools, data tools and a graphic modeling framework, among others.

Earlier this week, the Eclipse Foundation announced the latest release of the Eclipse Runtime.

As the most popular non-Microsoft IDE, that also puts it into direct competition with Microsoft's Visual Studio.

So after years of warring with Java, why provide support for it now? Perhaps enlightened self interest. After all, despite Microsoft's attempts to slow Java's progress, there are millions of Java developers and, realizing that, Microsoft would like to convince as many of them as possible to write programs for Windows Vista.

"We discovered that the SWT team had gotten requests to make it easy for Java developers to write applications that look and feel like native Windows Vista. He and a small group of developers built out a prototype that enables SWT to use WPF," Ramji said.

So what is Microsoft's contribution to the collaboration?

"We're committing to improve this technology 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."

The two parties are continuing discussions on other projects as well, although Ramji did not elaborate. Ramji, who prior to working at Microsoft was technical marketing manager for BEA's Weblogic Workshop Java development platform (now Apache Beehive), said it "just made sense to enable Java on Windows."

He also said to watch for more to come from the collaboration over time.

InternetNews.com Senior Editor Sean Michael Kerner contributed to this story.