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The grapevine is buzzing with the news Microsoft is looking for developers with knowledge of the Emacs Lisp-based editing tool. The big question is what Doug Purdy - Microsoft's group programme manager for Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and web services guru - wants with a 30-year-old text editor that is generally confined to super-techies and how it will fit in with Microsoft's .NET.

It certainly has nothing to do with bringing Emacs to a Windows environment. There are existing versions of the Emacs editor for Windows including one from the GNU project and another from Lisp specialist Franz.

There is some cynical speculation that Microsoft is about to rip off the GPL-licensed Emacs code, re-package it as a proprietary product and sue Emacs users for patent infringement. But there is also a plausible suggestion that Microsoft is planning an Emacs-like editor as an alternative to Visual Studio's existing front end both to appease techies who are fed up with feature bloat and, at the same time, give .NET a leg up.

Given Purdy's position in Microsoft and his long-term support for cross-system interoperability, the latter is more likely. An extensible Emacs-like editor that can push .NET into new areas is a good move for Microsoft and could be good news for advanced developers. Microsoft has promised to reveal more in October, the month the company plans to host its Professional Developers' Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles, California.®

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