Microsoft Hires Ruby Guru

John Lam, the creator of RubyCLR, signs on to help the software giant implement dynamic languages on .Net.

Microsoft has beefed up its efforts to make dynamic languages play well on the .Net platform with the hire of John Lam, an expert in the Ruby language.

John Lam is the creator of the RubyCLR bridge between the Ruby language and the Microsoft CLR (Common Language Runtime). He will be joining Microsoft in January, although he says he is limited as to what he can say.

Yet, observers note that it is not difficult to assume Lam will likely be working on helping to create an implementation of Ruby that runs on the CLR.

Microsoft hired Jim Hugunin in August 2004 to join its CLR team. And Hugunins group managed to deliver an implementation of Python on .Net earlier this year. That implementation, IronPython 1.0, went live last month.

Now enter Lam and his Ruby skills.

"Ive decided to stage a friendly takeover of Microsoft. As of January 2007 my new work address will be Building 42 at Microsoft," Lam said in a blog post on Oct. 21. "Ill be working in the CLR team to help bring the love of dynamic languages out to the statically typed heathens."

Lam has been a principal consultant and partner at ObjectSharp Consulting in Toronto. He said that baked-in support for dynamic languages in Net 2.0 has helped him in his work in building the RubyCLR .Net to Ruby interoperability bridge. In an interview with eWEEK in August, Lam called on Microsoft to provide even greater support. Now he will have the opportunity to help with that effort.

Moreover, also in an August interview, Hugunin said Microsoft is hoping to take the lessons it has learned from IronPython and take them to other dynamic languages.

"So if we could combine the best of what everybodys learned and tell people, Here is how you do it, then Ruby becomes easy," Hugunin said of the lessons learned on implementing Python on the CLR.

"My platform and reach at ObjectSharp is limited," Lam said in his blog. "Were a consulting company and while we do use Ruby to deliver value to our customers, its literally one developer at a time …. Its a whole other thing to work at a platform company whose reach extends out to millions of developers. Thats a remarkable opportunity, and a unique privilege."

Indeed, Lam said the ball started rolling on his move to Microsoft back in August, when he first attended the OReilly Open Source Convention and then the Lang.NET Symposium on Microsofts campus, where, he said, "[I was] presented with an offer that I could not refuse."

Meanwhile, Lam said he is looking for people to help drive the open-source RubyCLR project as he begins his move Microsoft.

Although Lam was mum on what he will be doing, he was candid about what he will not be doing. "Im not going to do evil things," he said in his blog. "I see my mission at Microsoft as helping to make developers happier; to give them tools that make programming fun. Thats why I program—I enjoy programming. I like to use tools that put a smile on my face. Perhaps what Ill be making at Microsoft will put a smile on your face too. Just be patient …"

S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsofts Developer Division, posted a blog entry on Oct. 21, saying: "I am excited to announce that John Lam will be joining the .Net Developer Platform team in January 2007. John comes with a great background in dynamic languages. He implemented the popular RubyCLR, which is a Ruby bridge to the .Net Framework."

Somasegar said Lam will be a program manager on the CLR team "focused on helping make .Net a great platform for dynamic languages."

Microsofts hire of Lam follows Sun Microsystems September hire of Charles Nutter and Thomas Enebo, the chief maintainers of the JRuby project to develop an implementation of Ruby on the Java Virtual Machine.


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