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SAN FRANCISCO—Sun Microsystems and the Eclipse Foundation are actively working together after years of competition and grudging respect for each other’s efforts.

In an interview May 17 at the JavaOne conference here, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, said Eclipse has recognized its first committer to an Eclipse project from Sun.

“As of today we have our first committer from Sun,” Milinkovich said. “They have committed code for the Eclipse platform for enabling SWT [Standard Widget Toolkit] for the Solaris x86/Motif.”

Milinkovich said two months ago Simon Phipps, chief open-source officer at Sun, approached the Eclipse Foundation and told the organization that some developers from the Sun Solaris x86 team wanted to make sure that Eclipse was enabled for the Solaris x86 platform.

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So Sun went ahead and pursued the work on the project and has committed the effort to Eclipse, Milinkovich said.

“This makes really, really good sense for both Eclipse and Sun,” Milinkovich said. “It’s a very sensible first step for cooperation between Sun and Eclipse.”

Sun’s position in the past has been that SWT was essentially fracturing Java because it was not based on Swing, which is Sun’s standard Java GUI library. Swing is the reference GUI tool kit for Java Standard Edition, and SWT is a library IBM built as part of the Eclipse platform. The two are not directly compatible.

Indeed, at the JavaOne conference a developer who asked for anonymity said his only problem with Eclipse “is SWT, because Swing is so much better.”

Now Sun has extended an olive branch and is providing support for SWT through the new Eclipse effort, Milinkovich said.

Asked whether the move might signal further cooperation or interaction between Sun, which maintains a competing open-source Java development framework in NetBeans, and Eclipse, Milinkovich said, “This is a small, tangible first step. I don’t want to speculate.”

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Milinkovich has long held that Sun is welcome to join Eclipse. Two years ago the conversation between the two organizations enhanced to the point where Sun seriously considered joining Eclipse, but backed off. Eclipse even offered to change its name because some viewed it as offensive to Sun. However, in a recent blog post, Milinkovich repeated his welcome to Sun to join Eclipse, but added: “P.S. We’re not changing the name.”

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In an interview with eWEEK, also at the JavaOne conference, Rich Green, Sun’s executive vice president of software at Sun, said Sun is focused on improving NetBeans and growing its ecosystem. Green, like Milinkovich, said the competition is good for Java and good for the development community because it will mean better tools from both organizations.

Competition is good, but so is cooperation, said Milinkovich.

On a slightly different track, Sun also announced that its WSIT (Web Services Interoperability Technology), which it is working on with Microsoft to deliver interoperability between Microsoft’s .Net environment and the Java platform, is being turned over to the open-source community.

WSIT is a part of Project Tango, which is an effort to provide ongoing Web services interoperability between Sun and Microsoft.

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