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Microsoft puts some iron into Ruby

Scripts .NET open source support

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MIX07 Microsoft has released IronRuby, an implementation, an implementation of the fast-growing scripting language Ruby, on the .NET Framework. IronRuby follows Microsoft's implementation of Python, called IronPython, released last year on .NET.

The languages run on .NET's Common Language Runtime (CLR) via Microsoft's new Dynamic Languages Runtime (DLR), which has been released under the company's shared source license. DLR provides a set of language services and API hosting.

IronRuby extends Microsoft's support for scripting languages, joining the Ruby .NET Bridge, which connects a Ruby interpreter through a .NET virtual machine.

As with IronPython, IronRuby will ship under Microsoft's Permissive License (Ms-PL), a royalty-free vehicle for modification and distribution.

By becoming part of the CLR, developers can use IronRuby for building applications incorporating Silverlight, Microsoft's upcoming rival to Flash, which was released as a beta on Monday.

Work, meanwhile, continues apace optimizing PHP for .NET. Microsoft and PHP house Zend Technologies are researching a native .NET/PHP interface, speeding the performance of PHP applications that call services in Windows. Currently, PHP calls an object through a COM extension, slowing performance. Work is also underway on a PHP language compiler for the .NET Framework, called Phalanger and hosted on Microsoft's CodePlex hosting site for open source projects.

By backing for scripting, open source projects, and flexible licenses Microsoft is acknowledging the strength of support open source now enjoys among developers, and the threat that this may pose to its server and PC business. For example, 80 per cent of PHP developers build on Windows, but deploy to Linux systems - meaning potentially lost revenue for Microsoft’s core business.

Microsoft's support for Ruby also comes amid growing adoption of the language. A SitePoint poll of 5,000 web developers in 2006 found that 24.37 per cent of developers expected to use Ruby during the next year, up from 5.31 per cent usage.

In a sign of the company’s pragmatism, and attempt to harness some of the brains behind scripting, Microsoft last year recruited John Lam who built the RubyCLR for writing .NET applications using Ruby. That followed the recruitment of Python guru Jim Hugunin. ®

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