Microsoft took another baby step into the world of open source recently as it announced the first fruits of two separate initiatives to improve Eclipse development on Windows 7. Also covered are Microsoft platforms including Azure and Silverlight.Microsoft is working with open source companies Tasktop Technologies and Soyatec on interoperability projects focused on using the Eclipse platform to take advantage of the new features in Windows 7 and Window Server 2008 R2, and improve Java and PHP interoperability with Windows Azure and Microsoft Silverlight. "For Microsoft, it is another step in their clear trend in being more open and embracing other developer communities," said Mike Milinkovich, CEO of the Eclipse Foundation. "As a developer platform, Eclipse competes with Visual Studio, but they are recognizing that they need to reach out and make sure there are tools that work for their platforms, even if those don't come from Microsoft," he continued. Milinkovich said roughly three-quarters of the Eclipse downloads are for the Windows platform. There are roughly 1 million downloads of Eclipse per month, and various market estimates place the total number of Eclipse developers at between 4 and 6.5 million.
Better look and feel
Eclipse has become one of the leading development tools owing to its strong support and frameworks for Java, PHP, Symbian and other programming languages, noted Mik Kersten, CEO of Tasktop Technologies. But the look and feel has stagnated somewhat as the Microsoft OS evolved, with no significant user interface upgrade since Windows XP.
Soyatec is working with Microsoft to make it easier for Eclipse developers to create Azure and Silverlight applications. An open source plug-in released last week, will allow PHP developers to create Web applications targeting the Windows Azure cloud platform. In a separate project, Microsoft and Soyatec have released an Eclipse Java SDK for Azure that helps bridge Java developers to Azure. Both tools include a tool for browsing data stored in Azure tables, blobs or queues.
Mind the gap
"Visual Studio will still be the tool of choice for developers working on .NET development.," said Kersten. "But if you are developing Java for Windows, there is no simple answer on the best development environment."