Microsoft eyes Eclipse collaboration

Microsoft is finally planning to collaborate with open-source Eclipse Foundation projects, as one of the latest steps in it new openness efforts.

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Microsoft is finally planning to collaborate with open-source Eclipse Foundation projects, as one of the latest steps in it new openness efforts.

Sam Ramji, the company's director of open source and Linux strategy, announced the move after a panel session at MIX 08. Details are to be aired at the upcoming EclipseCon conference.

Microsoft has been one of the industry's few holdouts from Eclipse participation. The foundation declined to comment afterwards on Microsoft’s overtures.

The panel session brought Microsoft officials together with Mozilla and Zend Technologies for a wide-ranging debate. Throughout, Ramji was keen to emphasise the company's recent decision to throw open various Microsoft technologies, including efforts to work better with Mozilla's Firefox.

"Piece by piece, I think we're transitioning to [increasingly] support open development," Ramji said.

Some partners were complimentary about the software giant's new attitude. "I think Microsoft has made tremendous progress," said Andi Gutmans, CTO at Zend Technologies, which offers software for running PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) applications on Windows platforms.

However, questions were raised about Novell's arrangement with Microsoft pertaining to Moonlight. This is the planned Linux version of Microsoft's Silverlight multimedia plug-in.

Novell's Miguel de Icaza, a Novell vice president in charge of the Moonlight project, said Novell gets access to the regression test suite and codecs from Microsoft as well as to technical people inside Microsoft.

Novell has a patent covenant with Microsoft pertaining to Silverlight. As far as whether these covenants would be extended to third parties, that is something Microsoft would have to discuss, he said. "I wish they were different and anybody could get them, but that is not the case," de Icaza said.

Microsoft's Ramji said those who download Moonlight from Novell don’t have to pay for it. But Mozilla vice president of engineering Mike Schroepfer raised the issue of complicated IP patent restrictions and known patents pertaining to Moonlight. De Icaza cited Microsoft's history of not suing anyone over this issue.

Schroepfer noted that Mozilla didn't hold any patents. "We don't have any form of indemnification from anyone," he said.

One of the longstanding tensions in open-source development has been the existence of patents and settling these issues, Ramji said. "[This] becomes a question of US business law," said Ramji.

In other launches at MIX08, Microsoft released a preview version of its Express Blend 2.5 interactive design tool, which is geared to work with Silverlight 2. Move Networks also announced plans to partner with Microsoft to enable Move's video-streaming technology to work within Silverlight.