The newly independent Eclipse Foundation is looking to broaden and expand its membership, not only in the Java space but also far beyond, to perhaps Javas biggest competitor—Microsoft Corp.
In an interview last week with eWEEK, Eclipse Executive Director Mike Milinkovich said an invitation has been extended to Microsoft to join the open-source initiative and to help evolve development of the platform. In fact, Milinkovich said, an invitation was extended to Microsoft before he took the helm and before Eclipse was made independent.
Should Microsoft join, it would be a major step toward unifying the two major competing development platforms: Java and .Net.
While observers downplay the likelihood of Microsofts joining Eclipse, Milinkovich tends to think the organizations new directions might tempt Microsoft to look more closely. For example, Eclipse is embarking on an initiative called the Web Tools Platform Project, which will focus on Web services and SOAs (service-oriented architectures), two areas in which Microsoft has taken a leadership role.
“Were just in the process of kicking off our Web tools project,” Milinkovich said. “And underneath the banner of that project, were going to be doing some work in the area of Web services and service-oriented architectures that I think might be more applicable to the current strategic direction for Microsoft.”
“The issue with Eclipse Web Tools today appears to be whether to make it Java-centric or to have a language/ platform-neutral approach alongside a Java approach,” said Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, in Waltham, Mass. “That neutral approach would support PHP, ASP.Net and others and thus wouldnt focus in particular on Microsoft technology support.”
But that neutrality just might be enough perhaps to woo Microsoft to at least take a look, Milinkovich said.
“Well, you have to remember that Eclipse is an open-source project first and foremost,” Milinkovich said. “And Ive watched with a great deal of interest Microsoft sort of putting the little toe into the pool of open source.”
In addition, Eclipse will be involved in the development of tools to create SOAs, Milinkovich said. “To the degree that Microsoft might want to have those interoperable between the various run-time platforms that are supporting services, it could be to their advantage to work with Eclipse,” he said.
Microsoft officials did not confirm or deny that the company has been invited to join Eclipse. Instead, when asked about an invitation, Nick Abbott, group manager of the Redmond, Wash., companys VSIP (Visual Studio Integration Partner) program, said, “A better question is why IBM created Eclipse instead of backing Visual Studio.”
Others asked what Microsoft would gain by working with Eclipse. “Microsofts most recent adventure with Java was J++ for .Net and a tool that would convert Java code into Microsofts proprietary C# language—neither of which sound like a congenial joint relationship to me,” said Michael Hines, an IT architect with a large Midwestern university, referring to Microsofts history with Java and its chances of joining a Java-focused organization. “But stranger things have happened … so who knows for sure?”
“I dont see it,” ZapThinks Bloomberg said. “Why would Microsoft care about Eclipse when they have so much invested in Visual Studio?”