Microsoft to Fund Perl Development

If the good news is that the world's largest software company has recognized the value of Perl and they are willing to fund new Perl development, then you know the bad news.

Microsoft has entered into a three-year agreement with ActiveState Tool Corp. to fund development of Perl, most of which will be released as open source code. The intention of the agreement is to improve Perl on the Windows platform. ActiveState will add features previously missing from Windows ports of Perl, such as an implementation of fork, as well as full support for Unicode on Windows platforms, a key feature for international users.

Dick Hardt of ActiveState believes that this announcement represents a formal endorsement of Perl by Microsoft, which should help Perl gain greater recognition. "Microsoft's main motive," he said, "is to improve interoperability between Unix and Windows." The announcement can also be viewed as Microsoft getting its feet wet with supporting Open Source software on Windows. Yet Hardt knows that some are leery of Microsoft's interest in Perl, especially in light of Sun's battle with Microsoft over Java. He insists that the examples of Java and Perl are very different. "We are not producing 'Microsoft Perl' under this deal," said Hardt. "It won't become a Microsoft product. In addition, the Unix and Windows versions of Perl will not diverge. They will continue to be produced from the same core source code."

Gurusamy Sarathy, one of the original developers of the Windows port of Perl who now works for ActiveState, said that he felt comfortable with the arrangement. "Microsoft is interested in the end result, not in controlling the development process," he said. Hardt added that Microsoft has been funding Perl development through ActiveState since 1995. The current agreement is a sign that the relationship has been a good one.

According to ActiveState, the new development will applied in the following areas: �

  • extend Perl's support for Unicode to all system calls so that Perl can interface with file names and environment variables as Unicode data.
  • provide a functionally equivalent implementation of fork, a Unix system call which does not exist on NT systems. �
  • improve the performance of Perlscript by saving the state of a compiled script for a subsequent script. This will help Perl match VBscript and JavaScript performance in the ASP environment.
  • add support for the new Microsoft installer, which is a requirement for Windows 2000 compatibility.

For more information, visit www.activestate.com.

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