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A trio of open source scripting languages are waning in popularity among developers at precisely the time big-name IT companies are adding their support.

The number of developers using PHP, Perl and Python has dropped substantially across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) from a peak of two years ago, according to latest research from Evans Data Corp (EDC)

PHP and Python have each experienced a 25 per cent drop in the last 12 months while Perl fell 20 per cent. Those not planning to evaluate or use either of the three in future projects, meanwhile, is growing - up by as much as 40 per cent in the case of PHP. EDC polled 400 developers in small, medium and large enterprises.

That's potentially bad news for IBM, Oracle, SAP and Intel who, this year, have each separately announced products or investments to advance PHP. Each has been working closely with PHP creator Zend Technologies on supporting the language.

This year, Zend secured a strategic investment from Intel Capital and SAP Ventures worth more than $8m while Intel said it would optimize PHP for Intel-based hardware. This was followed by work between Zend and IBM to deliver a native driver for the company's Cloudscape and DB2 relational database in July with integration separately planned for Oracle's Database and Zend's PHP web application development environment in the third quarter.

IBM and Oracle, in particular, are working with Zend and backing PHP to make their databases the natural choice for the estimated 2.5 million developers using PHP.

Disputing EDC's numbers, though, Zend said that its backing from IBM, Oracle, Intel and SAP proved that PHP is a growing market and that these companies have accurately read developer trends.

Michel Gerin, Zend's vice president of Zend marketing, said: "If there was no interest, or if we were seeing a decline of interest in PHP, why would they get their products to support PHP? We see increased demand and usage."

Gerin added that if PHP was losing support then Zend's business would have fallen by at least 20 per cent in line with EDC's figures. "That hasn't happened. Quite the contrary," Gerin said.

EDC blamed the drop on a failure for PHP, along with Perl and Python, to penetrate the enterprise space. An EDC spokesman predicted that the decline could be halted and reversed with this year's work between Zend and its new backers.

"This appears to be a long-term shift - there's a pretty steady growth in developers who don't intend to use it [PHP]. We may see this trend start to reverse itself in six months with SAP, Oracle and IBM pushing on it," the spokesman said.®

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