Eclipse rises victorious

Although it began as an IBM endeavor in 2001, the Eclipse open source tools platform has come into its own, emerging as both an alternative to Microsoft in the application development space and the de facto standard for developing in Java.

Overtaking Sun Microsystems' rival NetBeans open source platform, Eclipse is expanding the depth of technologies it is pursuing and its membership numbers. Key to attracting wider vendor involvement across the Java space, Eclipse was spun out of IBM in 2004 and is now under the jurisdiction of the not-for-profit Eclipse Foundation, which has gathered the backing of BEA Systems and Borland Software.

"Some of IBM's fiercest competitors are strategic members that sit on our board of directors," said Ian Skerrett, Eclipse director of marketing.

In fact, BEA, not IBM, took the lead on the Eclipse Web Tools Platform, released last month, Skerrett noted.

"You wouldn't see so many vendors flocking to support [Eclipse] if they were still concerned that IBM still dominates Eclipse," said Carl Zetie, analyst at Forrester Research.

Eclipse and Microsoft are the main players in application development, according to Zetie, but for other non-developer roles such asA‚Â IT analysts and project managers "it is a much less clear-cut [picture]," he said.

Eclipse, however, has set its sights on offering technologies in the full gamut of the application lifecycle, Zetie added.

Building on its momentum, Eclipse in June plans a consolidated release of its technologies, dubbed "Callisto."

"The goal is to make it easier for people using the different projects to use them in their commercial products. So the belief is, if we release the projects at the same time, it will be easier to do the testing" and integration, Skerrett said.

Callisto will include the following 10 projects: Business Intelligence and Report Tools, C/C++ IDE, Data Tools Platform, Eclipse Modeling Framework, Graphical Editor Framework, Graphical Modeling Framework, Eclipse Platform, Test and Performance Tools Platform, a subsequent release of the Web Tools Platform Project, and Visual Editor.

Sun's NetBeans, launched in 2000, is often viewed as less successful than Eclipse. Sun disagrees with that view.

"We're seeing a significant uptake in NetBeans usage over the last year and a half," said Dan Roberts, director of developer tools marketing at Sun.

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