Eclipse exec talks about .Net rivalry

Mike Milinkovich, Eclipse executive director, talks about the state of the company, dynamic languages and rivalries with Sun and Microsoft

The Eclipse Foundation ( has established itself as a premier open source software tools project. The organization has gained support from vendors ranging from IBM (which helped found Eclipse in 2001) to Borland Software, BEA Systems, and seemingly every other major player in the software industry except Sun Microsystems and Microsoft. The EclipseWorld 2006 show last week afforded those using Eclipse technologies a chance to get updated on the latest developments at Eclipse. InfoWorld Editor-at-Large Paul Krill attended and interviewed Mike Milinkovich, Eclipse executive director, about the state of Eclipse and subjects ranging from dynamic languages to rivalries with Sun and Microsoft.

Where is Eclipse headed and what new technologies are on the horizon?

That's a open-ended question. When I look at the broad initiatives that are going on within Eclipse, a couple of things come to mind. First is continued growth and adoption around our Rich Client Platform, and that's something that we expect to see continued emphasis on. We're seeing more projects joining Eclipse around extending RCP in various areas, so that's good news for RCP. And as we talked about in our press release earlier this week, we're very pleasantly surprised about the growing adoption and awareness of RCP. A couple of other things in just sort of broad terms [include] more support for multiple languages. Eclipse has always been focused on being a platform for the development of language environments, and we're seeing some really interesting new developments, some of them within Eclipse and some of them in commercial products. In the commercial products space, Adobe is in the process of building and releasing its Flex Builder 2.0, which is an Eclipse-based development environment for ActionScript, which is their language for the Flex servers. And within Eclipse, in the next quarter we're planning on having the first release from the PHP IDE project, which we think is really exciting. PHP [Hypertext Preprocessor] is a really important language both for enterprise development but [also for] Web development in general, and having Eclipse tooling available for PHP is something that we're pretty excited about.

That leads right into my next question. Do you see more support for dynamic programming languages? You have PHP, you have the AJAX projects. Do you see more for some of the other languages that are out there? Ruby, Perl, Python?

Well, yes. Within the Eclipse ecosystem you can find Eclipse plug-ins and tooling for virtually every single dynamic language you can think of. There's Eclipse tools for Ruby, RadRails is a project... These are not projects at Eclipse, but they're open source projects which are based on Eclipse... RadRails is an open source project based on Eclipse for building an IDE for Rails, which is the Ruby framework. And you have PyDev for Python, which is a fairly popular. This is another example of a plug-in, which is available from an open source project outside of Eclipse but is based on Eclipse.... For virtually every dynamic language you can imagine, you can find Eclipse plug-ins to help enable development for it. And that really resonates back with what we were talking about previously about Eclipse being a platform for building development tools. That's really the fundamental mission of the Eclipse platform. So within Eclipse, as I mentioned, we have the PHP tools. We also have the AJAX Toolkit Framework, and so this provides sort of added compiled debug for JavaScripts running inside the browser, so it provides an AJAX developer a very nice development environment for use with Firefox in building AJAX applications. And there's quite a few different AJAX frameworks out there, and it supports Dojo, Open-Rico and Zimbra currently, and I think they're definitely planning on adding more in the future... And again, lastly I would mention the Rich AJAX Platform, which is a new project just getting started at Eclipse for providing an AJAX runtime that's based on the Eclipse component model for developers who want to use that style of development for building AJAX applications.

Which leads to my next question: Do you think there's kind of an overlap in some Eclipse projects? You have the Eclipse Rich AJAX Platform, there's also an AJAX Toolkit Framework. I know for the time being you have data tools in the Web tools Platform Project, you also have a separate Data Tools Platform Project. Do you think there's a lot of overlap going on or is it just based on which vendor proposes which project without too much thought given to consolidation?

It's a little bit of both. So within Eclipse as an open source community, we are willing to tolerate some overlap; let the projects work things out over time. And so far that's actually worked out pretty successfully. In the particular examples that you just raised, I don't see overlap. The AJAX Toolkit Framework and the Rich AJAX Platform, they don't overlap. They're two very different things. The first one, ATF, is focused on the needs of developers looking for tools for building AJAX applications. And the second one, RAP, is a runtime environment, a runtime framework, for building AJAX applications. And on the other example, with Web tools and data tools projects, initially there was some overlap, but that's actually probably almost a poster child for project cooperation at Eclipse, because as data tools came to be and started to work, the Web tools guys moved their data connection layer and adopted the technology coming from data tools.

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