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4/4/2005
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Microsoft Takes Python Scripting Language To .Net

Microsoft is developing a homegrown version of the popular Python scripting language. Dubbed "IronPython," the twist Microsoft is bringing to its implementation is that it will run on the .Net Framework.

Microsoft is developing a home-grown version of the popular Python scripting language. Dubbed "IronPython," the twist Microsoft is bringing to its implementation is that it will run on the .NET Framework, which is the Microsoft programming environment used to create Windows applications.

"Python is an open-source dynamic language; dynamic languages enable developers to produce applications more efficiently by reducing the amount of complexity in the code they write," Jason Matusow, program manager of Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative, writes on his blog. "Microsoft's IronPython project demonstrates the benefits of putting the Python dynamic language on the .NET Common Language Runtime."

Late last month, Microsoft came to the PyCon 2005 conference for Python developers in Washington, D.C. to chat up its work and to announce the release of what it's calling a "pre-alpha" version of the software. (An earlier, prototype version was made available last year.) It's offering the pre-alpha package, IronPython 0.7, as a free download and is releasing it under Microsoft's shared-source license. That license grants users rights to make unlimited copies of the software and to redistribute it, though it restricts their ability to sell programs that incorporate modifications to the original code or add new features.

Jim Hugunin, the Microsoft software design engineer who created IronPython, demonstrated the language in a talk he gave to PyCon attendees.

According to notes from that talk posted on the conference's Web site, IronPython is up to 1.8 times faster than the existing Python. "The key to IronPython's performance is that it compiles Python code to .NET Intermediary Language, which is then translated to optimized machine code by the runtime," writes Matusow on his blog.

For developers, the salient feature of IronPython is its tight integration with the .NET Framework. That makes all of .NET's canned software libraries easily available to programmers, allowing them to quickly access functions and features that'd normally take days to code up from scratch.

In his PyCon talk, Hugunin spoke of his intention to accelerate his work on the software, to bring it from its current alpha incarnation to a full 1.0 release as quickly as possible. However, he didn't provide a time frame. (At the time of this post, Hugunin had not responded to requests for comment.)

Some 1,200 developers have already downloaded IronPython 0.7 from Microsoft's GotDotNet developer site.

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