Eclipse gets some help... building Windows apps... from Microsoft?

This delicious little tidbit just crossed my desk, and for those of you too scared to click the link, check this out:

Microsoft will begin collaborating with the Eclipse Foundation to improve native Windows application development on Java.

Sam Ramji, the director of Microsoft's open-source software lab, announced at the EclipseCon conference in Santa Clara, Calif., on Wednesday that the lab will work with Eclipse .

The goal of the joint work, which will include contributions from Microsoft engineers, is to make it easier to use Java to write applications that take full advantage of the look and feel of Windows Vista. Ramji wrote about the planned collaboration on Microsoft's Port25 blog.

"Among a range of other opportunities (which we're still working on), we discovered that Steve Northover (the SWT team lead) 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 Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). 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," he wrote.

The move builds on several initiatives coming from Microsoft's open-source software labs to ensure that open-source products work well on Windows and other Microsoft products.

My first reaction has to be characterized as... WTF?!?

My second reaction has to be characterized as... WTF?!?

There's some serious credulity issues here. Not credibility, mind you, because I believe the reporter is entirely accurate in this story, but credulity. As in, "That's incredulous!", which is another way of saying...


First, it's not been that long ago since Microsoft and Java were actively trying to beat one another into something vaguely resembling... well, resembling either a strawberry after that oh-so-ill-advised blind date with a blind steamroller, or else the end-product of the local butcher's sausage grinder. I seriously doubt anybody's memory has lapsed so deeply that they forget the rather nasty shooting war that erupted over J++ and Microsoft's Application Foundation Classes.

(For those of you who weren't writing Java code at the time, AFC was Microsoft's variation on AWT designed to make it easier to write native Windows apps, making heavy use of a language/library construct that was an extension to Java, known as "delegates". Yes, those same delegates as what appeared in C# a few years later, and those same delegates that became the core implementation behind C# 2.0's asynchronous methods and C# 3.0's lambda expressions, and arguably the same delegates that everybody is looking to incorporate into the Java language today. Funny how things turn out, no?)

Second, Microsoft partnering with IBM (yes, I know, the news piece says Eclipse, but who runs most of the Eclipse projects? IBM is to Eclipse what Sun is to the JCP, folks) to do this is just not going to make the whole IBM-Sun rift any smoother, or calm the turbulent waters in the Java ecosystem any further. Granted, SWT, is the logical place for Microsoft to go when trying to make it easier for Java devs to write Windows apps (which, by the way, was always a core principle behind the design and implementation of the CLR, which is why the CLR has such a powerful and simple P/Invoke and COMInterop story), but the last thing Microsoft wants at this point, it would seem to me, is more controversy around it and Java. After all, how hard would it be for Sun to haul them into court again, claiming that this somehow violate's the Microsoft/Sun peace agreement of a few years ago?

And while I applaud the fact that Microsoft is looking for ways to contribute to the open-source space, it just seems to me that there were a lot of other places they could have gone to start doing so without incurring this kind of reaction. Go write a standard Perl implementation, for example, or, even better, do a "Visual Lisp" and integrate it on top of the CLR, if you want to make a mark in the open-source world. There's thousands of places the gathering-steam Microsoft open-source direction could have gone, with far greater success for both the open-source community and Microsoft. The skin here is just too sensitive and the past wounds just too raw for this company to go rubbing elbows up against this space again.

Oh, just as a footnote, in case you're looking for more reasons to dislike the JBoss guys....

"It just makes sense to enable Java on Windows. We started a collaborative effort with JBoss two years ago that continues to this day. At the end of the day, it's all about the developer," Ramji said.

See? They sold out a long time ago!