Microsoft’s secret OS tinkering might spawn an open-source language

Chris Davies - Dec 30, 2013, 3:33pm CST
Microsoft’s secret OS tinkering might spawn an open-source language

Microsoft’s clandestine Midori, a skunkworks project developing a non-Windows OS, could spawn a new open-source programming language called “M#” insiders claim, a spin-off of existing C#. Chatter of the scheme came after one Midori team member publicly confirmed a new language was in development; that, sources told ZDNet, is M# (aka “M-Sharp”), developed alongside Midori, and is being seen as potentially even more evidence that the mysterious platform will see a launch.

M#, Microsoft’s Joe Duffy says, came from the Midori team wanting a broadly adopted and straightforward language at the base of the OS, settling on C# rather than C++ as a result. Rather than actually fragmenting C#, however, M# is more “a set of extensions” to the core language, that Duffy says involves “minimal breaking changes.”

According to the programmer, the enhancements mean that M# benefits from the safety and productivity associated with C#, but also gains the performance improvements more commonly associated the C++. Duffy later responded to the swell of interest in the language – which he doesn’t name as M# himself – by highlighting that it “is a research effort, nothing more, nothing less.”

Nonetheless, despite his cold water, other hints around M# suggest it could be more important than just an exercise in programming theory. Former Midori team member – and current Google Developer Infrastructure group member – Aleks Bromfield revealed a little more, describing M# (which is referred to as “C# for Systems Programming”) as being a combination of Rust’s safety and performance, Go’s approachability, and D’s familiarity.

M# could be “the lowest-level language that you’ll ever need” Bromfield concluded, safe enough to sit at the bottom of the stack but also suited to creating web services and other similar higher-level systems.

Midori itself has been moved into the centralized OS group, another potential sign that a release – in some shape or form – is more likely. That could mean parts of Midori getting slotted into future iterations of Windows rather than being released as an independent project, it’s suggested.

According to insiders, the OS group – under Terry Myerson – will be making the final decision on which aspects of Midori will survive, and how distinct it will be on the OS roadmap.

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