#3 – Eclipse Has Momentum
Although Eclipse is an open-source platform, it isn’t the only one. A most notable competitor is Sun’s own NetBeans, commercially distributed under the name Forté. NetBeans has lots of features, is as free as Eclipse, and surely must be taken into account in a discussion of Java IDEs.
But while Sun’s efforts in opening NetBeans to other software providers have been met with mixed results, the Eclipse Consortium seems to have succeeded in creating a group of very strong backers actively supporting and extending the Eclipse Platform. First among them is of course IBM, who funds the Eclipse Project, and is building its commercial J2EE IDE product, WebSphere Studio, on top of Eclipse. But many others can already be mentioned: Rational Software is using Eclipse for its Rational XDE modeling tool; Fujitsu for its application server product line; and JProbe, Sitraka, and others are porting their respective products to Eclipse.
I’m going to start with a minor correction. It is true that most of the committers on the Eclipse Project are IBM employees, but it’s not technically correct to say that IBM funds the project itself. To avoid potential for confusion, it’s important to note that the “Eclipse Project” is just one of the projects under the Eclipse umbrella (it’s the one that produces the Eclipse SDK). It’s also worth pointing out that there are non-IBM employees who commit and contribute to the Eclipse Project.
Some things have changed: I’m quite sure (though not 100%) that Sun no longer uses the name Forté. This posting is interesting in that it confirms the NetBeans folks assertion that they’ve been building a platform all along. I’m not qualified to comment on success of NetBeans as a platform; I’m sure that folks are using it, but I really don’t hear too many success stories (consider this statement FUD-lite).
I do hear frequently about new success stories with Eclipse as a platform. We’ve documented some Eclipse Rich Client Platform (RCP) applications (both commerical and open source) here. There are numerous other products based on Eclipse, including the recent release of JBuilder 2007 and Apache Tomcat (which includes the Eclipse JDT). Eclipse Plug-in Central lists numerous other products that are built-on, based-on, or complement Eclipse technologies including a whole page of IDEs.
Does Eclipse still have momentum? EclipseCon attendance is up (I’ll let somebody else report the final numbers), it seems that new projects are proposed weekly, big companies are joining the foundation, newsgroups are active, and we keep having to increase our bandwidth. It sure feels like Eclipse has momentum.